Category Archives: Ed Tech Tools/Processes Reviews

School leaders in EDAD 342 –Technology in Leading and Managing Jan Term 2014 at the St. Mary’s College Kalmanovits School of Education to share their reviews educational technology tools and/or processes they have researched and evaluated during the course.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Educational Technology Review: Open Educational Resources

Michael Flosi

Open Educational Resources, or OER, are documents, lessons, activities, and other forms of media that can be used in a classroom or at home that can assist in a students learning, assessment, and research. For the most part, Open Educational Resources are freely accessible; however, there are some online sources that require a fee. OER allows equal access to information and a wide rang of knowledge that will ultimately increase educational culture.

Open Educational Resources is worth the time and investment, because they allow any person to access a mass amount of information at a push of a button. As stated before, OER are either free or cost a small fee. This would save school districts and colleges millions of dollars. Districts use an incredible amount of money on educational resources such as textbooks, reusable activity books, and other resources used in the classroom. Recently, Antioch Unified School District requested that the school board authorize an expenditure of $3.2 million for textbooks, which will most likely be out of date by the time they are used in the classroom. Open Educational Resources would eliminate a majority of the cost. Types of open educational resources include: full courses, course materials, units, open textbooks, open licenses (streaming videos), quiz/ testing sites, materials, lessons to support and facilitate learning.

Open Educational Resources ultimately sponsors high-quality open content for teachers and students, which can remove barriers and stimulates learning. Another positive aspect of OER is that content can be used, re-used and shared among students and teachers. Ultimately, Open Educational Resource creates equal access for all learners.

Educational Technology Review – Flipped Classroom

What is “Flipped Classroom”?

“The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods, delivering instruction online outside of class, and moving ‘homework’ into the classroom” (Knewton.com).  Essentially the flipped classroom model gives students a chance to learn course material at home at their own pace and frees up class time for students participate in activities that will enhance the student’s understanding of the material.   Students are free to learn through teacher-led activities in the classroom instead of subjected to lectures that often do not allow for comment or discussion.  Educational technology is essential for the flipped classroom to work as teachers must record their lectures and put them online and students must have the technical ability to watch these lectures and post on discussion boards at home.  There are many different platforms and programs teachers can use to implement the flipped classroom model.  Some of these include Google and EdMoto.

Positives:

The flipped classroom model is great for students who can sit down after school or when they’re finally home from their various extra-curricular activities because it does not require a student to tune in at a specific time for their lecture.  They can watch the lecture at their own pace and re-watch if they missed a concept.  The online forum component of the flipped classroom model allows for students to dialogue about the lecture material outside of the classroom essentially forming an online study group.  Class time is now freed up for enrichment activities that will improve student understanding of the lecture material and/or present it in a different way.  The flipped classroom model is also very useful for students when they miss class as they do not miss any lectures and can ask questions on the online forum or in class if they do not understand part of the lecture.

Negatives:

The flipped classroom model may not work for all students.  What does the teacher do about the student who refuses to or does not have the time or technology to watch the lecture at home?  A chief complaint of students and parents today is that students have too much homework.  Students may not have physical homework that they are taking home, but they will still have the task of watching the lecture.  Some students are not motivated outside of class to watch the lectures.  Also, teachers must have activities planned which engage students in the classroom to the content they are learning about at home in the lectures.  This can sometimes be difficult with every lesson.  Some lessons need to be taught via direct instruction so students can ask questions.  For this reason, I believe the flipped classroom model is a good idea, but must be well planned and/or used in conjunction with other traditional teaching models.

For more information: http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Educational Technology Tools-Taskstream Review

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The good: Taskstream is an online cloud based software that offers many options to “empower educators to document, organize, and manage assessment processes; systematically address accreditation requirements, develop, assess and manage e-portfolios; manage field placements, internships and other remote educational experiences; easily and reliably administer surveys; use outcomes-based assessment data to demonstrate effectiveness and effect change; to ultimately promote continuous improvement throughout their organization.” (taskstream.com).

The bad: Minimum cost of $25 per semester.  However SMC purchases this for our program.

The bottom line:  TaskStream is an established online portfolio, assessment, and accreditation platform that should help us generate a high-quality culminating project for our SMC leadership program.

 

Brian Cooper and Heather Burns

Educational Technology Review

Educational Technology Review – Flipped Classroom

By: Rajnesh Naicker

            This is about changing the instructional model so that students can receive more instructional support in the classroom from their teachers. The availability of online videos and increasing access to technology has paved the way for the flipped classroom model. In a flipped classroom, students watch short video lectures at home. The class time is devoted to solving problems, discussions, debates, interactions, collaboration, labs and projects. The teachers are coaches or advisors, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort. Collaborative projects can encourage social interaction among students making it easy for them to learn from each other.

            Good teaching can come in many forms. With so many different tablets and gadgets, the ability to record videos, assign videos from utube, vimeo and the Khan Academy can help teachers use this instructional strategy. The use of videos puts the lectures under the control of students. They can watch, rewind, fast-forward as needed. Teachers can also ask students to summarize the video and give them some questions as a follow up and to ensure they actually watch the videos.I use this model once or two times a week. Flipped teaching technology is a tool for flexible communication that allows educators to differentiate instruction to meet individual student needs and spend more time in the classroom collaborating and interacting. As educators we should strive to be facilitators, mentors and guides for our students. Any teaching model that amplifies this role is step in the right direction. Anything that gives teachers more face time with the students is a good thing.

            Using flipped teaching in the classroom is a great opportunity to engage our students in taking more responsibility of their own learning. There is a distinct shift in priorities – from merely covering materials to working toward mastery of it. While flipping your classroom is a good teaching, I also think good teaching cannot be reduced to one technique; therefore I don’t think this tool is worth the hype. The real issue for this tool is the inequity of resources. If students do not have the means to access these online videos at home, they will not be able to learn the skill. Therefore watching videos should not be seen as a viable substitute for good learning. There are different ways we can flip the classroom. It’s about technology as well the pedagogy. There are so any misconceptions and misunderstandings about flipping. We should also be using drawings, cartoon strips, texts plus the videos. Flipping has great potential and rightful place in education. It’s really about who owns the learning.

            Using a variety of teaching strategies is the best approach. When students own their learning, then deep, authentic and transformative things happen in the classroom. As a Science teacher, the best form of flip for me would be inquiry and project base based learning. I believe this would incredibly powerful.

 

 

Mastery Connect Review

MasteryConnect

The Good: Mastery Connect is a web based software system which allows teachers to “effectively assess core standards, monitor student performance, and report student mastery to parents and administrators.” This program can be used across many subjects and is available for Title I funding. Mastery Connect allows users to share ideas with learning communities in their district as well as the other 10,000 districts in the network. It permits users to quickly and easily create or access assessments aligned to the Common Core or state standards, store resource pins and retrieve “additional resource tools to help teach and understand the standards. Mastery Connect was designed with Response to Intervention in mind [and] identify[ing] students for tiered interventions has never been easier.” This program provides immediate feedback on assessments to allow teachers to conduct ongoing diagnostics. The free resources available include: Team Data Collaboration Tools & Reporting, Assessment Privacy Controls, Student Reports, Parent Reporting, and Curriculum Maps. (https://edshelf.com/tool/masteryconnect)

The Bad: Access to all available features of Mastery Connect requires a subscription to the Premium package for $159 per year or $6 per student per year. Free package does not allow short answer questions, only bubble sheet, and the number of questions are limited. In order to access features of the program that grade assessments instantly, additional technology is required.

The Bottom line: Mastery Connect was created by an educator to assist other educators in creating formative assessments to monitor student progress and to report those findings. This innovative, user friendly program can be a quick and powerful tool when considering the competition of other assessment apps available to teachers.

Review: Zinch.com

Zinch.com is a one-stop shop for providing high school students with everything they need to succeed in their next phase of life – college. Setup much like Facebook, this online, social networking tool, allows students to connect directly with colleges in an engaging, low-pressure environment. With their extensive database of scholarships, any student can find plenty of opportunities to pay for college. Zinch’s free webinars help students and parents understand the in’s and out’s of higher education. To help students begin their journey towards college, Zinch’s college matching helps students find the right school for their educational needs. I have used Zinch with my AVID students and they have found it to be a great resource with an easy to navigate interface.

It all starts with a student building a profile. Building a complete profile allows a student to be matched with the right potential schools for them, the maximum amount of scholarships, and get connected with the best opportunities. When a student is trying to decide which college to go to, Zinch helps bridge the gap by providing all the data a student needs to make the best, informed decision.

In addition to college search tools, Zinch also provides many other great resources for students and parents. Zinch’s scholarship match system allows a student to be matched with scholarships in our database based on their GPA, interests, and other factors on their student profile. Zinch’s webinars cover subjects from preparing for the SAT to choosing the best fit college, among many other relevant subjects for future college students and their families. Zinch’s Blog, “More Than a Test Score” is the go to source for any and all topics that students are thinking about in preparation for the college journey.

Zinch is a free service that all high school students should take advantage of!