Educational Technology Tools Review – By Martha Lopez

Google Apps for Education

Purpose and Description

There is a constant digital shift in educational technology, and classic educational practices have to catch up with digital demands.  The shift is happening mostly in digital media and the way  students learn online.  As educators, we should harness and welcome the new learning methods instead of continuing to insist on providing scaffolding that will navigate our students from a simple subject matter to a more rigorous one.  Instead, we should allow students to challenge real-time problems and find solutions that would spark their curiosity to challenge their own thinking.  Creative solutions are everywhere online and we as educators should also adopt new digital learning strategies.

Google Apps for Education is a suite of collaboration and communication applications.  Students can develop 21st century skills that they currently lack to be successful in college and most careers.  One of the most powerful tools in GAFE is the ability to collaborate on many levels.  Students have access to traditional tools, but GAFE is innovative and new features are constantly released.

Google Apps can host policies for the students and easy-to-use management systems for teachers to use in the classroom.  This gives the teacher the opportunity to expose students to content rich technology.  With Google docs, students still have access to traditional word processing, presentation and spreadsheet tools, but students can learn to collaborate in real-time with Google Docs.  Google Sites can be used to personalize classroom activity or they can be used as a tool to build professional sites.  Google apps can be used interactively by many students and tools are intuitive enough for elementary grade level students.

Challenges

As we focus on working collaboratively to do joint research projects, we learn at a faster pace with other online communities or OPLC’s Online Professional Learning Communities.  Such a community is supported and maintained by GAFE, but product demands and system demands are not always compatible with one another.  A common challenge is upgrading network capacity to maintain all the new mobile devices coming into the classroom.  Unless the training for teachers, admins and support staff is constantly provided, communities can continue to be challenged by innovation.

Benefits

Google enterprise has found a solution with cloud computing and by students having common hardware and software products  Managing the systems can be easier but the support staff still needs to be readily available to solve  daily challenges trying to make everything compatible.  School communities, administrators and tech support personnel can focus on academic rather than troubleshooting systems.  Online computing avoids having to update and install regularly.  With Google Apps for Education, a local management system or LMS can easily deploy applications used by the teachers in the classrooms.  Google Apps for Ed or GAFE is systematic and replaces complex environments that can be managed by Google apps.  Using Google Apps for Education, teachers can use screened applications that are aligned with Common Core State Standards without having too many concerns about pedagogy.  These applications can be hosted by data centers and can be accessed by any devices that can use the internet.  This way, teachers can focus rigorous curriculum.

Cycles of Learning

Educational Technology Blog Review

by Martha Lopez

What is “Cycles of Learning”?

“Cycles of Learning” blog was created by Ramsay Musallam’s. Musallam is a  teacher who uses technology with his students, colleagues, parents, administration and educational technology community. His blog “Cycles of Learning” has a wealth of instructional technology posts and inspirational practices on many creative processes that he uses to teach pedagogical strategies.  His blog depicts a forward-thinking culture where he explores many different instructional tools to enhance student learning.  Musallam gathers new technology developments from many teachers in the field who are well-known and recognized.  The blog posts several innovative ways to integrate technology in the classroom using all types of media and for many grade levels.

Positives:

Musallam focuses on high school students who have smart phones and encourages students to use them regularly to spark higher thinking.  He constantly challenges them to prove theories with digital tools against traditional educational methods and encourages his students to use video, web tools, digital collaboration, and instructional applications.  He also provides screencasts, podcasts, and tutorials produced from his students to show the power of learning in real-time.  The myriad of ideas for digital learning is what keeps me coming back to his blog.

Negatives:

The only negatives I could identify is that many teachers have not had the opportunity to own devices to integrate the technology into their classrooms.  Technology and tech readiness plans are in their infancy in most districts, and the recommendations that are posted on this blog serves best to districts that are already 1:1 or have adapted BYOD.

Ramsay Musallam: 3 Rules to spark learning

Worth the Hype or Not? By Martha Lopez

Recently I had to review board policies that had to do with filtering library curriculum, and I realized that we soon had to pass a new process review for digital readers.  More and more books were disappearing from the bookshelves being replaced by e-readers.  Our district recently purchased 1600 Chrome Books to use for the SBAC Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and invested additional funding in applications that would increase students’ depth of knowledge.  With all these e-readers available to students on multiple devices, students are quickly replacing books with kindles and smart phones.

At a recent conference for digital educators, I attended a workshop where students understanding of the curriculum is now being measured instantly via a digital formative assessment tool.  Traditionally, students were asked to raise their hands or give a signal for checking for understanding; now students can “check-in” digitally and anonymously via their device of choice.  The teacher can simply assign accounts to different classes and allow students to display their understanding of any content immediately.  I think students today are so used to receiving instant feedback on anything they search for, so teachers have to conform to the new learning methods that this generation has grown up in.

Although I don’t agree with texting as the most popular form of communication, it has become the communication avenue of choice for students.  Effective and dynamic teachers have learned to tap into the world of texting by having students sign up to multiple smart phone services.  Teachers that frequently use technology have captured the attention of their students by assigning them homework on social media and tapping into forums that are permitted by their LEA, Local Education Agency.  At the risk of breaching policies, some teachers take the risk and use social media because they foresee that students are not going to easily give up participation in this digital culture.

Digital learning is not a trend.  As we learned in Fullan’s book Stratosphere; the integration of technology is aligned with the pedagogical practices that educators have to adapt to.  Although there is still a challenge on integrating technology into the classroom and convincing educators to use technology just like we traditionally use a book.  Teachers are still unfamiliar with a “flipped classroom” and the great onset of a learning revolution.  Simply navigating Common Core State Standards and all the digital devices and applications coming into the classroom setting is overwhelming. The educational professionals fail to see  that managing digital tools is easier than it is believed.  DuFour describes PLC or Professional Learning Communities that have changed how teachers deliver instruction.  For many years, school districts followed a factory model where they ruled how teachers needed to teach in a classroom lacking collaboration and student engagement.  Today, OPLC’s, Online Professional Learning Communities, exist where students engage one another in a peer-to-peer setting to collaborate in different content areas.  Tutorials, videos, chat rooms, learning forums and blogs have outpaced the traditional classroom and most teachers see the need for a change.  Standardization and uniformity continue to be characteristics of a learning environment, but teaching professionals realize the need for training in instructional technology.

Is technology worth the hype?  Definitely!  I have personally had to disseminate statistics on studies done on student’s learning progress and the eminent impact instructional technology has on them.

Worth the Hype or Not?

Is Technology Worth the Hype or Not?

The logical answer to this question is yes! Technology in education can help and engage students in new and more interesting ways. It is also fair to mention that even though technology is an asset to education, it can also create other concerns about the raising of young scholars. Technology is everywhere at the touch of our finger tips. Weather we like it or not, technology is not going anywhere and we just have to keep up with it.

Technology is evolving by the minute, and we are in urgent need to readjust our education system which unfortunately is behind the times. Educational infrastructure and curriculum must be updated to address the needs our students will face as they leave our classrooms. It is our duty to prepare students for the world of technology and to be successful in their academic endeavors.

After reviewing blogs, researching technological resources, attending hangouts, I feel I gain a deeper knowledge about some of the uses of technology. I thought I was knowledgeable about technology but I have no idea how technology has evolved in the last years. I certainly believe technology has a lot to offer to students, teachers, and parents. It provides all parties involved with tools that can help each of them to be connected to the world of today.

As a word of caution, the use of technology has to be monitored closely. Students should not spend extended amounts of time in front of a device. We need to make sure they do not isolate themselves because they are extremely engaged in the use of technology. We also need to make students aware of the cyber danger when technology is misused.

The benefits a student can receive from the use of technology are endless. As technology continues to evolve, so do its uses. I think technology is like anything else in the world, it has a positive and a negative side. Since technology is an inevitable reality, it is imperative that we teach our students to use it appropriately to their educational advantage. We, as educators, have the responsibility to create a balanced environment in our classrooms where we foster the use of technology as a way to motivate students and also pay attention to the social-emotional development of our students.

Worth the Hype of Not?

Educational Technology – Worth the Hype or Not?

by Anna E. Perales

Technology is definitely worth the hype in education!  Technology can be an amazing teaching and learning tool, but one must crawl before they can walk.  Training and exposure to new technologies is key to teaching and administrating in a 21st century school and classroom.  I am fortunate to have been born into generation and family that values technology.  Typing and basic computer skills were part of the basic technology curriculum in my elementary school, middle and high schools, however, much of what I know about technology has been learned through trial, error and “Google-ing it”.  Although this method has worked to me thus far, I am becoming increasingly aware that my students are more technologically savvy than I am and I find myself frustrated by what I do not know.   It is time to step up my game.

Trying anything new for the first time is unsettling, but I have slowly been integrating technology into my lessons for the past few weeks.  I started by taking an inventory of the technology and technology-based teaching strategies I already use in my classroom and lessons.  I use PowerPoint as an aid to my lectures, my website to share assignments, links and important deadlines, our district online gradebook, streaming videos for supplemental lesson material, our email system for communicating with other teachers, students and parents and the Remind 101 application for reminding my students of upcoming dates and important information.  I then looked at some of the projects I use in my unit plans and thought about how I could integrate technology.  An idea smacked me across the face when my students were turning in their Latin America brochure projects and commented, “Why couldn’t I have just put all this in a PowerPoint?”  The student was totally right.  The PowerPoint would have actually been better as the student could have integrated photographs, sounds, animation and videos.

Educational technology is definitely worth the hype and well worth the time spent researching and learning about new technologies to use in administrating and teaching.  We are supposed to be educating our students for the 21st century, but many teachers are stuck in their traditional ways of teaching.  Technology is a double-edged sword.  Students can wield it maliciously and teachers can find themselves in situations they did not foresee because of their general lack of understanding of new technologies.  The positives, however, outweigh the negatives as technology can open new doors to learning and teaching that were previously closed.

Simple K12 Teacher Learning Community Blog

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What is Simple K12 Teacher Learning Community blog?

Community.SimpleK12.com is an educational technology blog that offers a variety of alternatives to educators and administrators. Membership access fluctuates from free to couple of hundreds of dollars.  I only sign up for the free access, and I was able to navigate the site. I watched the tutorial on how to use this blog and it was clear and easy to understand. The catalog section provides access to several courses regarding a variety of educational topics. The majority of these courses have a fee that can go up to couple of hundreds of dollars. This blog also counts with webinars. They can be accessed when you purchase a full membership which is $357, but they also offer couple of the webinars for free. This site allows you to locate shared resources for most subjects which are mostly free. In the forum section, everyone who has signed up for this blog can express their ideas and opinions. The posts are current, done within the last hours. As you navigate this site and do different activities such watching tutorials, posting comments, you earn bunny bucks that can be redeemed for site’s merchandise like t-shirts, hats, slippers, etc. One more thing that is available is site licensing for schools and districts. Price for this is provided upon request.

 

Positives:

This blog offers a variety of free access opportunities. Its content is versatile and updated constantly. Every time I visited it, I noticed that several postings were uploaded in the last hours. Its navigation is friendly and easy to follow. The introduction tutorial was definitely a plus for someone like me who hasn’t had much experience with blogs. I also appreciated the resources topics. Most of them were technology based. What I also liked was the fact that you don’t have to have a paid membership to participate in the forum. Overall, I think this is a useful site that I will continue using to enhance my teaching skills.

 

Negatives:

The only thing I didn’t like about it was the expensive full access membership. I’m pretty sure it is worthy, but $357 a year is a lot for a teacher. The blog licensing is offered to schools and districts. They didn’t disclose the cost of the licensing but it is something I will suggest to my principal.

Is Google Apps Worth the Hype or Not?

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What is Google Apps?

Google Apps is an interesting tool that can be used in different fields including education. It is a service that provides independently customizable versions of several Google products under a domain name provided by the customer. The following are some of the tools teachers and students can use to maximize learning/teaching: Gmail, talk (IM), groups, calendars, docs, sites, and videos. Among the different uses Google Apps offers to teachers and students are to be able to communicate on real-time and to share documents. For example, by using a couple of clicks, a teacher can share a document with every student in his/her class. Students can jump in and make edits at the same time. Google Apps is also designed to keep your data safe and under your control. All data you put into this Apps is yours and it is automatically saved in the cloud powered by Google servers which makes it easier to access it from anywhere.

 

Positives:

Google Apps is a service that allows schools to be part of the educational shift. Educational technology needs to catch up with the digital demands of today, and Google Apps is a useful tool in this unavoidable process. Google Apps possibilities seem to be endless. It provides support to e-learning and online collaboration. Once implemented in the classroom, it increases efficiency, students’ engagement, and collaboration. By using the real-time features, the going back and forth using email is eliminated. When removing time-consuming bottlenecks, teachers and students can spend more time on learning and teaching. Google Apps helps to reduce an organization’s overall expenses and its environmental impact. In addition, Google Apps is powered by Google’s energy-efficient data centers, therefore it’s less energy and carbon-intensive than on premise servers.

 

Negatives:

The only indirect down side I believe Google Apps has is students’ access from home or other places. I thought about this since I work in a school that serves a socioeconomic disadvantaged population. A significant amount of students do not have access to technology at home. Unfortunately, this situation is not rare, and it becomes a challenge when trying to implement such an effective tool as Google Apps. Even though these challenges are going to rise, I definitely believe Google Apps is worth the hype. I don’t have the answers on how to resolve some of the issues regarding students’ access from home, but I’m pretty sure it will be addressed one way or the other. The 21st century education is inevitably attached to technology and all efforts should point to the implementation of educational technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Review – GettingSmart.com

GettingSmart.com Blog Review 

by Anna Perales

Overview - GettingSmart.com blog

Over the past few weeks I reviewed the education blog GettingSmart.com.  The GettingSmart blog is part of a larger business which focuses on the “shift to personal digital learning and its potential role in student achievement in the developed world and access to quality education in emerging economies” (GettingSmart.com).  In addition to the GettingSmart blog the company also offers consulting services, publications and speaking engagements.  The GettingSmart blog is a collection of articles describing and reviewing, and encouraging discourse developments in research, educational technology, educational entrepreneurs and educational methods.  Its intended audience is education leaders, education policy makers, K-12 and higher ed. educators, administrators, education technology organizations and education associations.  The articles on the GettingSmart blog look at the 21st century world and how our teachers can most effectively teach and students can learn.

Positives

Website layout is user friendly and intuitive.  The articles are easy to find and were all fairly concise with links for more information (good for readers short on time).  Very convenient and easy to filter searches by author or blog series.  There are a good number of articles to read on a daily basis on this blog on a variety of topics in education.  Ability to share articles on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest) is convenient.

Negatives

Not all of the articles had content related to technology in education.  Would have been nice to be able to filter searches by date and/or keywords although the search bar in the top right corner of the website allows for a general search.  “Featured Articles” window is a nice touch, but cycles through the articles too quickly.  By the time the user has read the name of the article and the brief description the slide has changed to the next article.

Worth the Hype….or Not?

Is Educational Technology Worth The Hype…Or Not?

By Heather Burns

 Today many children across the United States sit in the desks of our classrooms interacting with a textbooks or a novel, taking notes with a pencil or pen in a notebook, talking to classmates to work through a problem, raising their hand to ask you the teacher for help on a question. With very little technology integrated into what they are learning.  However, when they go home after the bell rings they are in very different world which involves screen time hurrying to finish their homework and rushing through answering their parents “how was your day?” questions so they can meet their “friend” on Minecraft, or catch a glance at what new picture, video, text, or drawing has come across Snapchat.  Students are engaged at a very different level when they are connected.  They have Smartphones are early ages and devices where they are able to download apps, and have access to the internet-where the opportunities are endless.  However, is all the technology worth the hype?  And does it belong in an educational setting?

 There are many videos which one can look up on YouTube speaking to how quickly our population is increasing in countries such as China and India, and how US students need to be trained to use technology at an early age, to not only be competitive with all of the people coming from foreign lands, but to also prepare them for jobs and opportunities that do not even exist.  Therefore, the thought is to merge technology and education and bring the devices into the classroom, which in turn, will increase student engagement by the sheer fact that a device is in front of our students.  Yet also have our educators instruct our American youth through integrating technology into their lessons.  With this idea, some think it is a winning combination. I am mostly behind this idea, however I believe it is easier said then done.

In order to become a professional you need participate in some sort of training, which is what most educators have done.  Most have gone through credentialing programs that have taught them how to create lessons mostly with textbooks and novels.  Only recently have teachers been provided any training on technology and how to integrate it into their lessons.  So if teachers were not trained in credentialing programs to integrate and utilize technology then who is training them? Once teachers are in the classroom it is up to the School District or Site Administrator to train teachers on new devices or software.  Here is where I believe we have a glitch in the thinking technology is always worth the hype.  Teachers need training to effectively integrate technology into their lessons so students are using the devices productively.  However, training teachers takes time and money.  I believe if districts and school sites are given the funding, and teachers are given the time and training needed to integrate technology properly then educational technology is defiantly worth the hype!  An increase in student engagement, and also subject knowledge is every educators dream, and defiantly worth the hype!  However, without the proper funding, training or time to develop and integrate curriculum with technology then teachers are left to self-train, and navigate on their own-which is not worth the hype.

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