Friday, March 28, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: What is Technology Integration?

Episode 12 of Wicked Decent Learning has a great discussion about what is and is not technology integration. I was glad to hear Jeff and Dan say what I've been saying to people in my school district, "throwing your lecture notes on to PowerPoint is not technology integration." (Yes, Jeff and Dan I am paraphrasing). I actually said to an educational consultant this week, "1995 called, they want their technology back." This consultant had suggested to me that students put together PowerPoint shows as a final project. While PowerPoint is a fine program and for many teachers it does represent using technology, it is an outdated technology in the eyes of today's students. No matter how cool or pretty or how many transitions you put into a PowerPoint, today's students are not impressed by it or engaged in learning through it.

As "the tech guy" at my school (unfortunately,not a real job title or paid position) I was asked to play with the one new SmartBoard the school purchased. Like any good employee I did what I was told and took it to my room to try it out. I have to say that while the SmartBoard is kind of fun to play with, using a SmartBoard in the classroom does not constitute integrating technology into the classroom.

So then what is technology integration? Technology Integration is using technology resources that engage students in active learning. Students watching PowerPoint presentations or watching something on a SmartBoard while taking notes and listening to a teacher is passive learning. Students making a PowerPoint presentation is active learning but, as I stated earlier, in the eyes of today's students PowerPoint is outdated and generally doesn't get them too excited about a project. A technology application that asks students to expand their 21st Century skills is a technology application that provides an engaging and active learning experience. Wikis, video mash-ups, podcasts, collaborative drawing and writing tools, are all examples of technology applications that students can use to create products as a part of an active learning experience.

Free Technology For Teachers: Google Maps adds Yosemite and New Cities

Google Maps has added new cities and Yosemite National Park to its Street View application. Street View, as the name implies, offers ground level views of places on Google Maps. The Street View application is a good tool for showing students a view of how a city or place would look if they were walking down the street. It is a nice feature to include if you're trying to create a virtual field trip.

Here is Google's explanation of Street View.

Free Technology For Teachers: Bluetooth Challenges Tradition in Saudi Arabia

American Public Media aired an interesting story last week about the role technology is playing in challenging "matching making" tradition and Islamic law in Saudi Arabia. The story focuses on how young people are using Bluetooth technology to secretly arrange meetings. As a Social Studies teacher I found the story interesting as a discussion about culture. As a lover of new technology and innovation I found the story interesting because it discusses the creative ways that young people use technology.

You can listen to the story here.

Free Technology For Teachers: Online Family Tree

Creating family trees is a good way to introduce younger students to genealogy, history, and timelines. It's Our is a new free program for charting your family tree. It's Our is very easy to use. There are pop-up menus (easily disabled) that will walk you through each step of charting your family tree. It's Our Tree has a place to enter the email address of every person on your tree. It's Our Tree has a mapping feature which allows you to show where in the world your family members are living or their geographic origin. Finally, the collaborative feature of It's Our Tree means that users can involve their family members in the creation of their Family Tree.

Applications for Educators
Plotting a family tree is good way to introduce students to charting relationships (a useful skill in history courses) and creating timelines. The mapping aspect of It's Our is a good way for students to trace their nationality(ies). The collaboration feature on It's Our makes creating family trees a good assignments for students and parents to work together.