Technology Integration for teachers

Technical Support and PD for Educators

One of the spotlights in our district is the existence of our department. This sounds like I’m bragging a bit, but my point is not that we are exceptional nor indispensable but that we provide a service that caters to the specific needs of educators.

Our district actually has two departments that helps educators with technology. We have a technology information systems department. This department is composed of many individuals. It has programmers to develop district resources on the network. It has network specialists to maintain and trouble shoot our network. It has technicians that repair computers. They are also charged with the process of preparing new computers for distribution to campuses or teachers. This process involves installing all district purchased or approved software. Each machine is then bound to a campus or teacher for inventory purposes. In a district our size this job is very daunting. It involves tens of thousands of computers.
The one thing that everyone in our Technology Information Systems department has in common is that with an exception here or there, none of them has ever been an educator. This might not seem important at first glance. They are hired for their technical expertise and they are charged with maintaining technology. The importance lies in their understanding of the client, and the needs of that client.
Before I delve deeper into this point I would like to talk about what we do in Instructional Technology. We are all educators. We have all been in the classroom for a number of years in one capacity or another. The primary goal of our department is to provide professional development for all educators in our district. This professional development operates with a vision in mind. We help teachers understand current and emerging technology so it can be contextually applied in their daily lessons. All of our professional development takes into account the teacher’s grade level, content of instruction and level of experience with technology. We tailor our instruction to help teachers with varying degrees of experience and expertise. This requires that we are all up to date with the latest technologies and instructional methodologies. This does not mean we understand the teacher’s content as well as the teacher. I don’t think anyone in our department can solve a linear regression. We can help that teacher use the technology to provide instruction using a variety of technology models.
A crucial part of our job is technology. The network must work all the time. Computers must be operating at optimal performance. This is where that understanding of the client is important. Before I was a teacher I worked in the world of business. At one point I operated a computer business of my own. The client is the most important part of any business. The client brings in revenue to pay the bills, and that includes employee payrolls. Service to the client is paramount. If the client is dissatisfied, the client will go elsewhere. Education has a different model. Each educator is our client and by extension so is every student in our district. The teacher relies on technology for instruction and because they rely on that technology, the student misses out if that technology does not function as needed.
We understand teachers and students are our clients. Our economic model is different. If the service fails to live up to expectations the teacher cannot go anywhere else. Students are left without needed services. Technology services like our Technology Information Systems department must be responsive to the needs of their clients as though their pay checked relied on that client. Technology repair should be done as effectively as possible to get the teacher back to their job of teaching. Network services should assure that all systems are available and accessible. If they fail here none of us can do our job. If we can’t do our job then our students receive less of an education. All our students deserve the best we can offer and that should come from every department.
I believe it is crucial that everyone that works in a district understand the crucial role they play in our children’s education. It is not the job of the teacher to maintain or repair technology no more than it is the job of a police officer to repair his car or a nurse to repair an X-ray machine.

Television and Apple TV for Instruction

Recently the world of television and computer technology has been merging. This has been slow and it has also been slow to recognize. In the recent past there has been a way to display content from a computer onto a television. I often did this in the classroom when I wanted to show video, or present a slide show. It cost me a bit of my personal money, but I found it very useful. Today televisions are lighter and easier to mount onto walls. Televisions with dimensions of 42 to 72 inches are within the price range of most consumers. The resolution of these televisions rivals that of most computer monitors. The problem has been, physically disconnecting yourself from the device. You could, of course, use it as a presentation device with the flat screen television used as an expensive projector. Presentations are either bland with slides filled with too much information or they are so animated that the focus is on the presentation and less on the content. Presentations take time to prepare and are limited by that preparation. I don’t much care for the uni-tasking option of using a television for delivering presentation alone. Technology is expensive and I like to stretch technology as far as I can.

Within the last few years the Apple TV has hit the market. With this device I have also come to appreciate the relationship between television and an Apple TV for instruction. I see the Apple TV as a nexus for teachers between television technology and the role of teacher as facilitator. Todays Apple devices like the iPad and Apple computer can display content through the Apple TV wirelessly. While it can be used to watch video, as in the home, it can also be used to deliver instruction. The laptop is portable but still cumbersome to carry around for instruction. The iPad is portable and light weight enough for any teacher to carry around. Once an iPad is in communication with the Apple TV it can display the contents of any application. There are a variety of whiteboard applications available for the iPad that a teacher can use to take the place of the traditional chalk and white board. I’ve covered these applications in previous posts. Look for my posts on Educreations and Show Me.

With an Apple TV and an iPad a teacher can display web page content, show video, use an application to enhance classroom content, deliver a slide show or use a whiteboard application. The teacher can do all this without being the center of instruction at the front of the class. If students have iPads they too can wirelessly deliver content to the same television. With this technology in place the teacher and students can use it as an incidental focal point for information and pertinent content. The focus of instruction remains with the student as learner and teacher as facilitator.

In a typical lesson a teacher introduces the concept to be learned that day. For example, a teacher might post basic information about a historical figure like Benjamin Franklin. This information could include his name and an image. Students would then use a variety of resources to learn about Benjamin Franklin on their own. Teachers would facilitate with probing questions. Students could individually or in groups develop a presentation to display what they have learned about Benjamin Franklin. The teacher, of course, would provide a rubric for the presentation. Students would then talk to the class about what they learned and use the television to display their information as text or media, which might include images, video or sound. The same can be done for all content areas. This example, is very basic, but it begins to show the possibilities of what can be done in the right classroom environment. A teacher needs a place to write and the iPad provides this option without forcing a teacher to be center stage. White board applications like Skitch, Showme and Educreations fill the need for a teacher to use a white board for specific content instruction.

If you haven’t explored the possibilities of an Apple TV and iPad in your classroom I highly encourage you to learn more about this integration.

Skitch for Evernote

Skitch is one of my favorite additions to Evernote. Skitch is a free application for the iPad and Apple computers. You can think of Skitch as a white board for the iPad or Apple Computer. If we’re talking about iPad integration, then Skitch makes an excellent addition to Evernote for both students and teachers.

A teacher can connect Skitch to a projector and use a stylus to write, draw and illustrate most concepts. If a teacher has a television with an Apple TV connected, then he or she can use Skitch’s option to connect to the Apple TV wirelessly with AirPlay. This frees the teacher from the front of the classroom.

Skitch can take photos with the iPad camera. Students and teachers can use these photos as part of an illustration in a presentation. Skitch can load images from the library and they can be used as part of a presentation or instruction. For example, a teacher can download an illustration of the human heart. With this illustration and Skitch, a teacher can discuss and highlight elements in the illustration. The teacher can draw student’s attention to areas of the illustration and ask probing questions. Beyond photos and illustrations, a teacher can take a photo of some text and use it in a lesson for reading, vocabulary development, writing, and a variety of other reading skills.

Since a teacher can draw with Skitch, it can be used to teach math concepts like fractions or geometry. It can be used to illustrate scientific concepts in a variety of disciplines. Skitch can draw some basic shapes like arrows, rectangles and circles.

Skitch comes with a built-in web browser. A teacher can visit a web site with images, animations, or video, and use the tools to highlight facts, ideas and concepts. When Skitch is on a web page it freezes a section of a page that is visible. The teacher or student can then use the tools to present or demonstrate anything that is relevant.

Skitch has a built-in map application. The map application is similar to Google maps. It can be used in geography or social studies class to teach facts.┬áThese are just some ideas. I’m sure you can come up with others.

Okay, Skitch is great, but where does Evernote fit in. Skitch has a dedicated button that can take any illustration made with Skitch and save it into an Evernote document. If you’ve read my blog on what Evernote can do, then you are aware what Skitch can add to your classroom.

Technology Integration with Evernote: Rubrics

It is obvious that students today are digital natives. This doesn’t mean they understand how to use technology appropriately. Let me use one of my famous examples. When Video Cassette Players and Recorders appeared for consumers in the eighties, they were as easy to use as an audio cassette recorder. Most people knew how to press play, stop and rewind. Hardly anyone knew how to set the clock or to record from the television. That’s why they later made VCRs with automatic digital clocks and beautifully illustrated instructions with color codes to connect your television to the VCR. Most people still didn’t know how to record from the television. The same is true with our current digital natives. They don’t know what a VCR is, and they also don’t know how to properly format documents in a word processor. These are skills to be taught like any skill.
Rubrics in technology are instructions and guidelines. Rubrics assure that students produce products that comply with accepted conventions, and comply with your minimum requirements. Some of your rubrics should emphasize writing standards and specifically technical writing. For example, students should use either a sans-serif font like Arial or Verdana, or a serif font like Georgia or Times New Roman. These typefaces are both legible and readable. Standard body text should be 12 point. Heading and sub heading sizes should be either larger than the body text or bold. Titles are centered and data is organized in tables. Use numbered lists to indicate a sequence, as in a set of instructions. Un-numbered lists can be used for anything else. All lists should begin with a capital letter, Unless a list is part of a complex sentence. This sounds complicated, but these steps are important when writing any document. These are the same considerations I take into account when writing my blog.
Your rubric should also address images placed into a document. For example, an image should be in JPG, PNG or GIF format. It should be no larger than 640 by 480 pixels and no smaller than 300 by 300 pixels. This simple set of requirements requires a few skill sets from students.
Rubrics go beyond grades and become a useful tool for emphasizing standards, best practices and teaching essential technology skills. I believe that your rubric is important to assure students use and apply technology using real world application methods. Your rubric will vary with the content and assignment.
That brings me to the end of this series of articles for integrating Evernote. If you would indulge me a little, I would like to expand on Evernote integration with some additional tools that can be used in connection with Evernote to expand the options available.

Technology Integration with Evernote: Classroom Management


Classroom management is crucial with, or without technology. Evernote makes it easy to create and share notebooks with others. This can lead to some less desirable communication among students. There is nothing to prevent students from sharing notebooks with one another. This can lead to a host of problems. One problem is cheating. Another is the spreading of malicious information through gossip. One way to manage this problem is to have in place a set of guidelines and consequences. What are the expectations of students when using Evernote? What are the consequences when these expectations are broken? These expectations are just like other expectations. What do we do when lining up for lunch? What are the consequences when there is pushing and loud noise? Like traditional rules, any rules applied to technology in a classroom must be met with the same diligence. The best defense is a great offense. Engage with students constantly. Walk around and monitor their activities. Students on task are students on task. When an expectation is broken, act quickly and decisively. Have in place a process where you randomly review a student’s Evernote account. Yes, it should go without saying. You must have access to all their account log-in information. Log into their accounts and monitor their use. In essence, monitoring the use of technology is not very different from monitoring a traditional classroom. Teachers that have good traditional classroom management skills can use those same skills no matter the degree of technology integration.

This entry is short because I want to make sure teachers understand that there is no special skill set required for managing a class with technology. The tried and true works just fine.

Next week I take a look at the final component for integrating Evernote.

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