Integrating technology in the classroom Wish List

We’re constantly trying to think  of meaningful ways to integrate technology into our classroom. We’re doing some of these things in one form or another (i.e. class blogs and student wikis), but we’re always trying to improve our practice. Here’s our wish list for things to experiment with over the next few years. 

Are you doing any of the following things in your classroom? What were your experiences? Would you do it again?

  1. Students use blogs to work through the writing process. They write their drafts online within a protected enviornment, peers leave comments to help them revise and edit, and when they are ready, they take the natural step of publishing content online to the real world. By publishing online, we can network with classrooms around the world. 
  2. I’d like to webcast and telecommunicate with a class on a different continent. Imagine the thrill of getting feedback on your story from a student half-way around the world or seeing a class from a different continent. We’re also exploring moderated marking in our literacy PLC at school. A group of teachers get together, create a common assessment tool, implement it in the classroom, and then we mark it together. Blogging provides a platform for teachers in different classrooms in different schools that are working on the same unit at the same time to allow their students to interact with each other through peer feedback in the form of  comments. 
  3. Students apply comprehension strategies when reading texts online. Resources are always a limiting factor in the classroom. On-demand access to the internet in the classroom would open up a library of expository articles (i.e. wikipedia), graphic novels, sports facts, as well as other high-interest material.  The internet offers a great hook and resource to help us close the gender gap. Students on IEP (with funding) can use tools like kurzweil to help them access texts. 
  4. Student collaboration through wikis. Students create KWL charts on math, science, history/geography concepts on wikipages and as their understanding evolves, so does their wiki page. Group work allows for a truly digital collaboration environment. The history feature allows a level of accountability because we can track who is contributing ideas.
  5. Better communication with parents at home. Parents can have a guest account so they can log in and see what their students have been doing / learning. Both students and parents can see other examples of what excellence looks like.
  6. Using laptops in class allows us to hook students with meaningful digital interactivity. Instead of using clickers to have students “vote” an answer, students could use twitter to “tweet” a text message which is displayed live on the class data projector. ELL and ELD students could use google translate to get a quick translation of class materials. (Sure machine-translation isn’t perfect, but they already use their pocket digital translators anyways. Laptops help facilitate what ELL students are doing already.)
  7. A class set of laptops could be shared amongst different classrooms because they are mobile. (Unlike a desktop computer which would have to stay in the “computer lab”.) Although it would be technically challenging to have so many wireless connections in the same room, logistically, it might work better to have a class set of wireless laptops because it creates possibilities for us as a division to work as a professional learning community (PLC), collaborate, and integrate technology into our practice. 
  8. Connecting a flat-screen television in the classroom to a computer so it becomes a message board. You could post homework and announcements on it. (One day, I dream of buying a touch screen so that students can flip through the homework pages.) Student work can be flashed through as a presentation during nutrition breaks. Could we network the same message across all flat-screen tvs in different classrooms?
  9. Using an ELMO document camera to completely eliminate the need for an overhead projector. Being able to take digital images to post homework and lessons online for students on the class homework page.

All great ideas start somewhere. What do you think?

35 thoughts on “Integrating technology in the classroom Wish List”

  1. How about Google Docs as as online collaborative piece.

    As for the touch screen LCD, my computer club and I successfully made a Johnny Lee whiteboard. You can project the image on the wall and use an IR pen to flip through slides. Cheap, yes. Efficient, almost.

    Great to find another Canadian education blog!

  2. Hi Brian, Thanks for stopping by. We checked out your site and it’s a great resource. A lot of similar interests. Johnny Lee’s whiteboard is great.

    We have looked briefly at Google Docs and will probably look at it again this summer for next year. Some of us have had students who aren’t allowed to have an email address – which blocks the Google Docs idea for a very small number of students. I like the self-hosted wordpress approach because it allows us to reset student passwords.

    What are your experiences with Google Docs in the classroom?

  3. At my school, we have a COW (Computer on wheels) that we can share among the school. It contains 24 laptops and can be checked out to use as a whole class or small group. This is helpful when the computer lab is booked. I have also used an ELMO projector this past year. It is wonderful not having to transfer images to a transparency. You can put anything up on the projector and it shows on the screen. I used this a lot when reading books to the whole class. By putting it on the ELMO, all students were able to follow along.
    The rest of the wish list sounds wonderful! I am working on my master’s degree in integrating technology in the classroom, and I look forward to learning more about using blogs, wikis, and podcasts in the classroom.

  4. Hi Lindsay, we’re getting a “COW” portable computer lab next year as well. How long did it take for students to become comfortable with the technology (i.e. their own laptop in the classroom) to use it effectively? Are the laptops connected to the internet as well and do you find that causes any classroom management issues?

    Best of luck with your Master’s. Blogs, wikis, and podcasting are powerful tools for engaging our students.

  5. Mr. Kuroneko,
    Since we use the COW on a check-out system, my class did not get many chances to use it this year. When we did use it, I had an EA in my room to help the students. They did pretty well logging on and using the internet. The part that they struggled with the most was the mouse on the laptop. We had to plug in the regular “mice” in order for them to use it. Other than that it went well. I would love to have my own personal set to use on a daily basis. My 4 student computers see a lot of use, but it is not something that we can do all together at the same time.

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  7. I stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for blogs about integrating technology into the classroom. My high school I teach at, used COWS (computers on wheels) in the past, until just recently we changed all that. Because of the lack of students (and teachers) being accountable for the laptops, our principal took them away. Now each department has one set of 25-30 laptops to share. They are all wireless laptops, and this creates havoc, especially for high school age students, to research information that is valuable.

    I conteract this, I have used blogs that the school district has set up on a secure website for classroom instruction. In my classes, we do daily journal entries, and instead of writing them in an old fashioned journal, students respond to live blogs with “code names” to others in class. This really opens up students to respond to topics without fear of being exposed. So in response to your question about students using blogs to work through the writing process, I would say yes, I have used this, and I still use it to this day. I started it last year in the middle of the year and the students now look forward to responding to each other on specific topics I give them that day. They really give thoughtful answers and have fun at the same time. I am sure there are many other ways to do this, but I have found that short 5-10 minute responses work best for my students.

  8. In response to the question, I have not used a blog, personal or classroom, nor have I set up a wiki. I can honestly say that I do use a document camera to post homework or for other uses within the classroom. I have given students the opportunity to research in a computer lab as we do not have wireless notebooks.
    I strongly feel that today’s educators need to be educated on the technology waiting for us. In his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts…, Will Richardson points out the fact that ” today’s students, of almost any age, are far ahead of their teachers in computer literacy” (p. 6). It sounds as though the students need to educate the teachers in the subject of technology.
    I felt as if I were integrating technology, as I work in a building that has white boards and Smart Boards in every classroom, until I started this class on the same topic. Now I feel as if I have so much to teach to my students but first so much to learn.

  9. I am a 4th grade teacher. Currently, I am working on my masters focusing on integrating technology into the classroom. Through one of my classes, I have stumbled onto this blog. Great ideas! Currrently, I am using a few of these strategies in my classroom. Every class at my school has their own website. The websites include any special announcements and weekly assignments. We also have a computerized grading program called “Powerschool”. Through this program, parents can view their child’s grades using a password given to them by the school. Both of these have been great ways for the parents to keep up with what we are doing in the classroom and their child’s progress.

    We also have mobile labtops. It is so nice to be able to have a class set of labtops that you can bring into your classroom. Now, at first it took me a long time to get everything passed out to the students. Every labtop has a number, etc. Once I got the hang of it and the students became more comfortable, it was a great learning tool.

    My favorite tool that was most recently added to all classrooms is the ELMO. I can’t say enough good things about this. I can review an assignment with the students, model for them, and even show pages out of textbooks. I was amazed that I could freeze my screen and still do other tasks on my computer at the same time.

    I hope that this helps. Good luck!

  10. After reflection, I have concluded that every teacher should have professional development in the area of technology so we can start to use the great technologies mentioned above in our classrooms. I was unaware of the abundance of technology available today and would still not be using it had I not taken the class on the impact that technology has on education, work, and society. Our main focus of staff development in our schools should be on the new technologies.
    We need to work on doing different things, instead of doing things differently. We need not be apprenhensive to change; rather, look at is as a wonderful opportunity to interest and educate today’s young people.
    The question that looms is this: how do we accomplish the difficult task of educating the educators on today’s and tomorrow’s technology?

    1. Hi Melissa,

      I think the real question is how to effectively use technology in the classroom for pedagogy’s sake, as opposed to technology’s sake. We’re currently playing with online literature circles (Gr 7/8) involving 8 classrooms in our school. After term 1 report cards go home, I’d be interested in looking at the marks based by gender to see if students did better with the online lit circles than their term 1 report cards. There’s a lot of literature about the gender gap and boys + technology, but we’re experimenting with action-based research to see if collaborating online helps our boys engage.

      Do you think the barrier to teaching with technology the access to technology, or learning how to use technology effectively?

  11. I am a 4th grade teacher. Currently, I am working on my masters focusing on integrating technology into the classroom. Through one of my classes, I have stumbled onto this blog. Great ideas! Currently, I am using a few of these strategies in my classroom. Every class at my school has their own website. The websites include any special announcements and weekly assignments. We also have a computerized grading program called “Powerschool”. Through this program, parents can view their child’s grades using a password given to them by the school. Both of these have been great ways for the parents to keep up with what we are doing in the classroom and their child’s progress.
    We also have mobile labtops. It is so nice to be able to have a class set of labtops that you can bring into your classroom. Now, at first it took me a long time to get everything passed out to the students. Every labtop has a number, etc. Once I got the hang of it and the students became more comfortable, it was a great learning tool.
    My favorite tool that was most recently added to all classrooms is the ELMO. I can’t say enough good things about this. I can review an assignment with the students, model for them, and even show pages out of textbooks. I was amazed that I could freeze my screen and still do other tasks on my computer at the same time.
    I hope that this helps. Good luck!

    1. Hi Angie, Powerschool seems to be an interesting option. We use Markbook, but we’ve stayed away from publishing marks on a password protected site because we weren’t sure how “secure” things were. (On the other hand, that would certainly be easier than emailing out marks because it puts the onus on parents to check the marks on a timely basis.) Is the entire school on board with this program, or individual teachers?

      What’s the lifespan of your mobile laptop and how many do you have in a class set? How did you get the funding for something like that? It sounds great.

      We have a few ELMOs in our school, but I haven’t been able to find the time to play with one yet. I love the idea of being able to capture a movie of what we’re doing and then posting the lesson on the class website. Perhaps over the winter break… Thanks for sharing your two-cents!

  12. Having students use a blog for peer editing is a great idea. Before any type of formal writing is turned in in my class I always have my students get a peer evaluation. Many times, the students complain that they cannot read each others’ handwriting. This would be an easy fix. I also think that it would speed up the process and would really integrate technology into the lesson. Great idea!

    1. Hi Carrie, typing does eliminate the messy handwriting issue. We’re also experimenting with using student numbers for usernames (instead of student names or pseudonyms) so students can provide anonymous feedback. (In our online literature circles, it’s been interesting because students have been judging other students’ work based on the merit of their ideas (and how well they write), as opposed to preconceived notions of who they are. Teachers have a list of all student numbers, so it’s not really an anonymous comment, but it does change the dynamics of the conversation. Good luck with using blogs for peer editing. You might also want to look at Google Docs for student collaboration.

  13. Currently I send grades home once a week through email. We use primo pdf to produce a document that shows students grades in terms of their student number. All parents have to do is find their students number and there is their grade! Parents really enjoy getting these updates and sending home a mass email is way easier than updating each parent one by one!

    1. Hi Darcey,

      Have you had any parents complain or students figure out who the other students were because it’s a single mass email? We’re of two minds on this issue. Our board has licensed markbook which has an email feature that sends out the individual reports to parents. (The email feature is temperamental and doesn’t send out from hotmail, gmail, or yahoo. Our board has set it up correctly, but that might not be the case for all boards.) – Having said that, sending home interm reports to parents via email is a nice way to ensure they get their marksheets. (It does seem to encourage email replies which is great for parent-teacher communication, but does add to the workload…)

  14. I have been thinking about the comments that I posted earlier regarding technology. I am very interested in creating my own blog for my social studies class. Currently, I am teaching the American Revolution. I can tell that my students are very interested in this and a blog would be a great way to let them express their opinions. I teach 4th grade which is fairly young. I might have parents get involved as well. I would love to hear thoughts on this. Thanks!

    1. We’re currently experimenting with using online forums for literature circles with our Grade 7/8 students right now, although really you could set up any medium for your online collaboration: wikis, blogs, forums, google docs, etc. We’ve learned a few things, including the importance of stress proper grammar structure. Many of our students wanted to use MSN speak 🙂 u know, but it was important to us to stress the value of formal and informal language (vs colloquial MSN slang.) In the past, we’ve also debated on whether to allow comments to go live automatically, or whether they require individual moderation. Personally, we’ve done it both ways. If you have to approve each comment individually, you have complete control over what appears on the blog, but then you’re the bottleneck slowing down conversation. If you allow comments to appear automatically, but then read the comments to make sure they’re appropriate, we’ve found that generally speaking most students do post appropriate comments and the conversation happens quicker. (Please note that if “anyone” can comment on your blog, you’ll get a lot of comment spam – most of which is inappropriate.) Good luck and let us know how things go!

    2. Angie,
      I also teach 4th grade! I know that you think that these kids are young, but boy will they surprise you. I use a blog with my kids. I use the blog: I really like this because I can create a blog question, and students can respond on a first name basis. Their comment gets sent to your email and you have to approve it before it goes live on the web. I also discussed with students a grading rubric which I put on my blog page as well. Students enjoyed typing on the computer and I still could grade their work. Hope this helps.

      1. Hi DeEtte,

        It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with your grade 4 bloggers! Out of curiosity, how do you find students typing to get their ideas down on paper? I teach grade 7/8 and some of my students hate computers and type really slowly and some of my students can type faster than most adults. I find sometimes, the technology can actually slow down the pace of learning, at least initially, while students are climbing the steep learning curve to figure out how to use the technology effectively. Do you find you get a different quality of response from your students writing or typing?

  15. I am a special education teacher currently in graduate school for integrating technology into the classroom. You mention the importance of having students create blogs where their peers can edit and revise their work. Instead of having peer editing sessions in the classroom, how great would it be to do it all online. Next month I am starting a unit on the Civil War. I am going to start thinking of ideas in which my students can blog and respond to one another. I am thinking of dividing the class into two section, the north and the south. I will have them discuss certain events and they will have to respond to each other based on the viewpoint of their assigned side. Do you have any blogging suggestions?

    I also agree that the ELMO should replace over head projectors in all schools. This year my school ordered three ELMO’s. It is hard to share the ELMO between teachers. It would be wonderful for each to have their own. What a great technological tool!

    We also have a laptop cart in my school that has 30 laptops. As a special education teacher it is a valuable tool to use with my students. I like the option where the students can have the computer read to them.

  16. Hey Meghan,

    I think the idea of splitting the class into the north and the south is an awesome idea. Edublogs and WordPress are the easiest way to get student or class blogs up and running. You might consider running only two blogs (i.e. north and south) instead of each student having one – that way it’s easier to moderate the content. This past week, we had our students collaborate and respond to each other using Google Docs. (We have a Google Apps Education Edition set up for our school.) – The neat thing is that you can track the revision history (like in wikispaces), but we’ve found it to be better at merging simultaneous edits than wikispaces.

    Actually, on second thought, you’re probably better off going with something where you start a post and then students respond with their comments instead of a wiki or google doc format which is more open-ended. WordPress / Edublogs is probably the way to go. (We’re playing with phpBB with our online literature circles, but that’s harder to setup on your own.)

    Good luck. Let us know how things go. (We’re jealous of your laptop cart!)

  17. The school I’m at has a site called school fusion for the parents and students to become members of a teacher’s web page. School fusion allows the students and parents to check grades on a daily basis. Also, I can post links, power points, and homework for the students to see. This takes the old days of writing your homework down in an agenda to having all the information you need with a couple clicks of a mouse.

  18. Thanks for the advice!

    My students have never used weblogs before and I am excited to expose them to the blogging world! I think that I will definitely use Edublogs or WordPress. I was discussing this with colleagues and someone gave me another good website. It almost looks like students are using sticky notes to communicate with one another. I have the website posted on my desk at school. I will let you know what it is when I return to school on Monday.

    Thanks for your help!

  19. I am a grade 1 to 6 mathematics teacher in Nigeria, Africa. My interest for technology started a few years ago when I founded an elementary school. We started with a computer laboratory consisting of 20 computers, while we started to use overhead projectors with computers to teach the children.

    However, as time went by, with my visit to a conference in the United Kingdom, I got to know about the Smart Board. I got so fascinated that I decided to purchase some and start using in the classrooms. In conjunction with the internet, the usefulness in the classroom is unquantifiable, with visible success results. This motivated me to start my my masters study in Integrating Technology in the Classroom.

    I am willing to try the use of ELMO in my classrooms as well. Right now I am exploring the use of blogs so that I can start integrating it in my classrooms.

  20. I am a ninth grade physical science teacher in a public school district in northeast Ohio. I am looking forward to integrating new technologies into my classroom. Some technologies that I have implemented are TurnPoint clickers for automatic student feedback for pre-assessment and post-assesment activities. I have also made use of a GradeCam that allows me to grade my students’ multiple-choice portion of the test at me desk and it also give me immediate feedback. This immediate feedback is an outstanding benefit but the program also allows me to view reports and breakdown each my assessment. My favorite report allows me to see the breakdown of each question and how each of my students answered the question.

    I see that statement number 5 of better communication with parents is a goal of technology. Right now we have this ability in my classroom and I find that the parents who have time to check check, but the parents who do not have the time or means are still left in the dark. One idea that I have gone back and forth with implementing is a classroom Twitter account. My ideas for my account is to take a TwittPic of my daily schedule so their parents can see all the topics we have covered for the period and this would also answer their dinner table question of, “So what did you learn in school today?”

    The other statements that you posted that I am also curious in implementing are three and four.

  21. Hey Todd, thanks for chiming in. I just checked out the GradeCam website and it looks very cool. Does the software only work with a live image (from a web cam or ELMO), or can it work if you scan the papers into PDF format. (Our photocopier can bulk scan pages which might be faster than manually swiping each page under the camera.)

    How do you get parents to log in and check their child’s mark? (Statement #5) – We haven’t been able to find a good solution. A few of us have classroom twitter accounts. Some informal polling leads me to believe that not a lot of the parents in our community have twitter accounts, but the teachers who do use twitter use it mainly to update their classroom websites on the go. (i.e. their twitter feed gets posted on the class website which parents can visit.)

    In terms of #4 (online collaborations), we’ve moved away from wikis and towards Google Docs. (Google Apps for Education) – the fact that you can have multiple students working in the same document at the same time and watching each other type is very cool. Sometimes I have students do assignments in Google Docs and I can watch them from my computer to make sure they are on task and heading in the right direction (just in time support).

    Cheers, Kisu

  22. I like to use in my classroom. I find that students are excited about responding to blogging. I am able to easily put up questions and even created a grading rubric that is posted on my blog page. Students comment about my question, which are sent to my email. From there I can approve it to go live on the web or deny it. I find that students really enjoy blogging and getting their ideas live on the web.

    1. DeEtte – You determine which content actually gets published on your blog page to ensure appropriate comments? This would help ensure comments are appropriate on the website and definitely a good use of shared learning.

      1. Hi DeEtte, Melissa,

        I like how and both give you the option to moderate comments so you can control what shows up on the class website (and what other students can see.) It’s the best way to make sure conversations don’t get out of hand and are appropriate for school.

        On the other hand, I also find that moderating hundreds of student comments means you also slow down the speed of thought and online conversation because the teacher becomes the bottleneck in approving content. There are other options to make sure content stays appropriate, but nothing is as good as approving every single comment. I love how a class website can become a shared learning environment.

  23. There are so many technology programs and application that teachers can integrate into their course curriculum to help students to comprehend information and develop skills. I agree that technology allows for a collaborative learning environment. Many times students have to carry this technology home with them and apply it towards assignments. How are parents involved in learning how to use this technology in order to help their students in the home environment?

    1. I think technology can certainly help with parent-teacher communication, but it all depends on the comfort level of the parent. For some parents, email is a great way to communicate and let them know how their child is doing. Other parents don’t have an email address at all. One of the powerful things about a school Google Docs setup (i.e. Google Apps for Education) is that it allows you to share folders of student work with students and parents… as long as parents are net-savvy enough to be able to create a Google account. Technology is certainly a convoluted issue. We want our children to have digital skills, and yet, we also need to ensure that we maintain healthy screen time limits. And, of course, there’s also the widening technology gap between haves and have-nots. Ultimately, I find some parents are very willing to embrace the technology, and others are not… as with all things. What have been your experiences?

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