It can be difficult to remember a time when today's iPads and laptops were not a part of the classroom culture. In terms of technology, today's students missed the best - records, cassettes, double deck tape players, and VHS tapes! Remember floppy disks? We had to figure out how everything worked, and we knew how to fix them. Today's technology is very different. When something breaks, forget getting it to work again. They aren't made to last, are more expensive, and less accessible, in a way. People say that we are more connected than ever, but in reality, we are less connected. Technology used to bring us together - we'd make mix tapes for friends, or listen to the radio together, waiting for our favorite song so that we could record it. Or, we'd record a movie or television show on the VHS player and invite friends over to watch it. Most devices today serve to socially separate us and it's harder than ever to maintain those ties. Educational technology should enhance education, not take it over. I believe that technological literacy and academic literacy are two very different goals, and in the younger years, I concentrate more on academic literacy because knowing how to read, write, and make accurate calculations are still the skills that children will need to be successful. Below is my list of tried and true technological resources that make an appearance in my classroom.
My newest discovery, Bloomz, is a wonderfully efficient parent-teacher communication application that has saved me so much time and effort, this year. It's free and available on iOS and Android, but best of all, all of my parents have signed on and are responsive. On Bloomz, you can
- Share student work (Student timelines) or in a private message to a parent.
- Schedule and send parents information about field trips and conferences, ask for chaperones to sign up, etc.,
- Schedule conferences, meetings, etc.
- Create a group for your parent representatives alone
- Send announcements and alerts to your class.
- Track student behavior.
- Record classroom moments with photographs and video, and share with parents.
ClassDojo is a behavior tracking tool, but I like to think of it more as a motivational reminder. When students hear that ping they are even more motivated to do their best. It even works as a behavior redirecting tool, without me having to say anything. When students receive a compliment from a Specials teacher (Music, P.E., Art), I give them a whole class point. This is, in a way, an informal collaboration between me and their other teachers, and it allows me to show pride in students. ClassDojo is a great tool to incorporate into beginning of year routines. When my students and I set our codes of conduct for our classroom, we add them to our account on ClassDojo so that I can reward their practice with points. I am aware of the debate about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, but a little bit of extrinsic motivation never hurt a young child. And, throughout the year, we have discussions about why trying our best at school is important. ClassDojo also has wonderful videos about motivation, resilience, and grit (The Dip), and students enjoy watching these videos and discussing how to apply them to their daily lives.
BrainPop,Jr. is an educational site for young students. Many of its resources are free, but it also offers school subscriptions which I currently enjoy at work. BrainPopJr offers concepts and informational videos for young students, and allows them to practice their learning with fun activities, quizzes, and various lessons. Students can learn about Science, Health, Math, Literacy, Social Studies, and Arts and Technology.
Front Row offers individualized English Literacy, Mathematics, and Social Studies lessons. The app begins with a baseline assessment of a student's knowledge in math, then offers an adaptive unit based on the results. Teachers can assign units to students and have access to all assessment results. Front Row is intuitive and relatively easy to use.
GoNoodle offers wonderful brain breaks for children and adults, alike. On those days when your students simply stare at you like they've contracted some kind of malaise, connect the laptop to GoNoodle and have them move around to Kidz Bop singing and teaching dances to popular songs. GoNoodle also has an Olympic channel, in which Olympians explain their sport and students get to try them. They can meditate for stress reduction, and learn about parts of speech with Blazer Fresh. Simply put, this website is a goldmine!
These are my current top 5 tech tools. I like them for their ease of use, ability to engage and help my students, and for their very low prices - free.