As a teacher of early childhood education, I am always looking for ways that I can incorporate technology into my classroom. New applications are constantly being designed that make teaching easier for educators and learning more fun for students. With the help of edshelf.com, I am able to stay abreast of the lastest educational tools that are available to me and my students. Thank you, edshelf!
I teach: Mathematics, Reading, Science, History, Social Studies
To ages: 5 to 8
While YouTube can be a useful educational tool in the classroom, it is also full of videos that may not be appropriate for young viewers. Google has worked with teachers to put together playlists broken out by subject and grade level with completely educational content. YouTube for Schools gives teachers access to these videos while it weeds out the rest. I use a video to complement a lesson in any given subject, and I find that it is a great tool when I am having trouble keeping kids focused. If your school does not have access to YouTube for Schools, I suggest that you speak to your administrator and get it!
Google, one of the world's most well-know search engines, now gives you free space on the Internet to build your own web page! With the options of using templates and themes, Google has made it very simple to create a page on the Internet. I have created a class website using Google Sites in the past; however, I have found that the interface for Google Sites is less intuitive with less customization than some of its competitors. In my opinion, there are much better options available for designing your website, such as Webs.
If you do not have Microsoft Office (which is not a free package), Google Docs is a good, free alternative. A web-based application, Google Docs gives you the capability to create different kinds of online documents including word-processed documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and tables. However, the suite of products that Google Docs offers are not as robust as those of Microsoft Office.
Unlike Microsoft Office, Google Docs gives you the option to share your documents with others via one of the world's most well-known search engines, which makes it a great collaborative tool. Google Docs is a great way for teachers to share files with students and parents, or for students to turn in their assignments to teachers. I would definitely recommend using Google Docs for file sharing, but not for its office suite.
GoAnimate enables users to create animated films and then publish them on the Internet. The software is somewhat easy to figure out once you play with it. I have used this tool at home, but I shy away from using it in the classroom because the website in which you create the videos is open to the public and some of its content may be inappropriate for students. For this reason, I probably would not recommend GoAnimate to a colleague.
Microsoft PowerPoint is the best presentation software on the market. It gives you all of the tools needed to create professional-looking, dynamic slide show presentations that will keep your students engaged. Whether it is a classroom lesson or a parent meeting, I use PowerPoint to display information and make a good impression on my audience.
The program has a voice-recording tool, which makes it appropriate for students who may still be learning to read. I can create a lesson with voice prompts in PowerPoint and leave it on the classroom computer desktop. Younger students can then self-direct their learning by simply clicking on the slides and the voice activation tools. If you do not have a copy of Microsoft PowerPoint, I highly recommend investing in a copy.
Microsoft Excel is a well-known spreadsheet program, which self-calculates the numerical value of any data that you enter. I use Excel both professionally and personally, and I would recommend it to anyone who works with numbers. At home, I use this software to calculate my monthly budget; at school, I use it to average the grades of my students. Once you input a formula into the program, Excel will do the calculations for you making it a real time-saver. However, Excel can be challenging to set up, so I recommend reading "Microsoft Excel for Dummies" before getting started.
Microsoft Word is a proprietary word processing program that, in my opinion, is essential for producing documents both at home and in the classroom. I use Word 2010 because of its updated features: a customizable tool bar, better picture editing tools, and an improved navigation pane with find tools. The only downside to Microsoft Word 2010 is the fact that there is a learning curve when you upgrade.
Because my students are young and most of them have never used a word processing program before, there is no learning curve for them. I find that most of them understand the features that Microsoft Word 2010 offers, and they are able to use it with ease. Using the classroom computer, they love to cut and paste pictures to illustrate their stories using the software.
Dragon Dictation is a voice recognition application that is a must-have tool for anyone who has an iPhone. An alternative to typing on the keyboard, you can easily dictate your longer text and email messages into Dragon Dictation and let the application do all of the work. I use Dragon Dictation frequently and it is usually accurate. You have the option to edit your message before sending, so it is quite trustworthy. Dragon Dictation is a free application, and I recommend that anyone who has an iPhone get it.
I have never used Dragon Dictation in the classroom. Cell phones are strictly prohibited in schools, so in my opinion the pedagogical effectiveness of this particular tool is poor. However, students and teachers alike will definitely find this application helpful outside of school.
Tumblr is a free blogging platform that is used mostly to share photos, designs, and other art with the world. Postings to Tumblr usually are visual with more media and minimal text. Although some use it as a means to express themselves, I do not recommend that teachers condone the use of Tumblr in the classroom. Even further, I think that parents need to know that this online hangout can be too sexually explicit and vulgar for children. Tumblr says that it "prohibits obscene, pornographic, and abusive behavior," but I have come across images on Tumblr that are downright indecent and simply too racy for our youth.
Wordle is a tool that makes an illustration, or "word cloud", out of any text. You can type in text into Wordle, or you can copy and paste it in, which is much faster.
I use Wordle in my second grade class to make illustrations out of our spelling words. I ask my students to type their spelling words into Wordle using the classroom computer rather than copying and pasting because they will learn them this way. My students love the end result, and we are able to make a class collage of spelling words!
An alternative to Facebook, Edmodo is a must-have tool if you are in education and are managing a classroom. Edmodo provides a free and totally secure way for students to post messages, engage in class discussions, and turn in assignments. In the same way, teachers are able to share digital content with students such as links, pictures, documents, and presentations.
There are issues with using Edmodo in the classroom: (1) the layout and functionality of Edmodo is much like Facebook, so students will need to be monitored from posting off-topic messages with each other, and (2) students who do not have access to the Internet at home may feel left out.
With Dropbox you can store files online and access them from any computer, iPad, or smartphone. The beauty of this tool is that you will always have all of your files with you wherever you go!
In the classroom, I use Dropbox to share files with others. By simply clicking on any folder, selecting the Dropbox sharing options, and typing in an email address, I am able to share test scores, bulletins, and other important papers with my students or their parents effortlessly. The only drawback to Dropbox is that in order to do this, the person you are sharing files with must sign up to Dropbox also.
I highly recommend that everyone back up important files to an application such as Dropbox. You will no longer have to worry about leaving your important documents at school or at home!
Jing is a tool that allows you to take a picture or video of your computer screen, also known as a screenshot. It is great for teachers because you are able to add notes to your screenshot, so it is great for tutorials or presentations in the classroom.
As an early childhood teacher I use Jing in my classroom to record myself logging into the class website. I can then play it back to the class multiple times so that they can learn the procedure themselves. The only drawback to Jing that I have found is the inability to edit your videos once you've recorded them (unless I am missing something). Overall, Jing is a must-have tool for those who teach any level!
Voki is an easy-to-use tool for creating speaking avatars that can be posted to any website, blog, or profile. As an early childhood teacher, I find Voki quite effective in the classroom. By creating a Voki with my own voice and posting it to my website, I can communicate with students who may not be able to read. Voki.com has a wonderful lesson plan database, and for a nominal fee, Voki Classroom offers teachers a way to manage their students. If you are in early childhood education, I recommend that you look into using Voki.
There is no doubt that Facebook is on the rise, and as social networking grows you may ask yourself, as a educator, how you can incorporate this into the classroom. While I do think that there is a place for Facebook in our schools, I am wary about utilizing Facebook for teacher-to-student communication. However, if you are looking for a way to get your students talking about what they are learning, you may consider using Facebook to initiate student-to-student collaboration. Consider opening a classroom Facebook page on which the teacher could post a status update about what is being taught. Students could then post replies to that status which could lead to an effective class discussion between students.
Animoto brings slideshows to life! By inputting pictures and music, you create your own animated videos to be viewed by friends, family, or your students. You can share your Animoto videos via email, post them to a website or blog, or download them to a computer to be used in a presentation.
You are able to include text among the pictures to educate or inspire your viewers, which makes Animoto very good for classroom use. However, the free version only allows you to make a thirty-second video. The yearly subscription offers you the ability to make feature-length videos, but the customer service is terrible if you ever need help or want to cancel your subscription.
Wikispaces is an online tool that you set up to create collaboration within your class about any subject. It is very user friendly, offers a lot of tools to design your space, and has the capability to add more pages. You may allow your students to edit or add new content to your Wikispace, or you can lock users out from making changes. Teachers have control over whether or not they want to make their Wikispace private, therefore locking out public viewing. The only drawback that I can find is that any user given permission to make changes to the Wikispace can access the management tool, not just the wiki organizer. This could be a potential problem.
For a nominal fee educators are able to upload images or Power Point slides to a platform on the Internet so that others can collaborate and comment on them, and VoiceThread makes this possible.
As an elementary teacher, I like to use VoiceThread as a class project by creating or taking pictures, uploading them, then asking each student to talk or write about the images. Each child is commenting on the same image, therefore creating a collaborative collection of responses. In higher level grades, VoiceThread can used to ask students to comment on a piece of writing or a Power Point presentation.
I highly recommend adding VoiceThread to your bag of teaching tools. For the price, it is a great way to get unify your class and get your students talking!
Twitter is one of many social networking services where you can connect with other educating professionals in either your close network of colleagues or those you have never met. It is a great way to exchange ideas with other teachers and learn from them.
Twitter can also be used by educators in the classroom by sending messages (also known as "tweets") about homework assignments or what may be going on the class on any given day. Students are then able to "follow" their teacher's tweets and avoid risking missing assignments. I recommend Twitter as a fun, casual way for teachers to communicate with their students.
I use Blogger to post a "Question of the Day" for my second grade students to answer as a way to incorporate the Internet into my curriculum. This application is extremely easy for early childhood students to use, and can be set up to be viewed only by your class using privacy settings. With a wide variety of features at no cost, Blogger is a great option for beginners!
Pages has turned my iPad into a nice clean writing surface with the ability to use a nice set of tables, basic editing tools, templates, and image placement. With Pages uploaded on my iPad, I finally have a word processor that I can take with me anywhere.
Creating new documents using this tool is an easy process, but moving documents from your computer to your iPad isn't nearly as simple. I am disappointed that Pages is not integrated with external cloud storage such as Drop Box. The other downside to using Pages on the iPad is that you lose the tool bar when you are in landscape mode. All of the formatting tools are located on the tool bar, so you will probably be in portrait mode more than you like.
Pages has some annoying features, but overall I recommend Pages for people who need to use their iPads as writing tools.
Evernote is a great way to get organized. It can be easily accessed from your computer, smartphone, or iPad and will synchronize all of your information to all of your devices seamlessly. I love the fact that to-do lists, lesson plans, schedules, web-clippings, pictures, and much more can all be organized from your desktop computer or smartphone and stored in one place.
I use Evernote both personally and professionally, and the capability to set up notebooks and share them with others also makes it a great collaborative tool. Students are able to take notes by typing them directly into Evernote and emailing them to another, such as a friend who may have missed class that day. In the same way, teachers and administrators can organize resources, lesson plans, and agendas and share them with colleagues or their students.
The one thing that I have noticed about Evernote, however, is the fact that if you are using your smartphone rather than your computer to change a note there is sometimes a conflict between devices and it must be rectified from the computer. But, you can feel good about the fact that you will never lose your notes in this process.
All in all, I highly recommend Evernote for Schools whether you are in education or not. Now that I have it, I do not know how I ever lived without it!