Technology Integration for teachers

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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.

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: 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.

Technology Integration with Evernote: Workflow

A Workflow for collaboration:
As you can see it can start to get a little complicated. This is where developing a workflow really helps. Let’s take a look at a typical example. Let’s also take a look at a syncing concern.
Let’s address the syncing concern first. If you were to create a homework assignment in a shared notebook, it would be visible to students as you were creating and editing. Here is a solution. A note can be easily transferred to any notebook. If I were to create an assignment in an assignment development notebook that is not shared, it can be transferred to the homework notebook very easily.┬áThe option to transfer notes from one notebook to another is right below the note title. Click the pull down menu and select a notebook.
Here is an example. What I would do, is create a homework development notebook. In this notebook I develop any homework assignment. This notebook is not shared in any way. When I am ready to distribute the homework through the shared homework notebook, I’d transfer the note from my development notebook to the shared notebook.
When the student receives the homework assignment he or she can begin to work on the assignment. The student can work on the assignment using a development notebook and then transfer the finished product to a shared notebook. Just the same way you develop your assignments for distribution later. Noting that students can be forgetful, it would be better if they worked on their assignment directly in the shared notebook. This would be the notebook each student has shared with you. This has the added benefit of helping you monitor their progress as they work on the assignment. Don’t use this as an excuse to stay behind your desk. Mobile devices allow you to move around the classroom. Use these devices to monitor both your classroom and their digital content.
There are situations where you might have an assignment with several questions for students to answer and submit. In this case, students can copy and paste your assignment into their notebook. All they need to do is answer each question. When done, they can move their answers to a shared notebook.
A typical workflow for assignments and assessments.
Let’s look at a concrete classroom example. As a self-contained teacher I would have a stack of notebooks for each subject. Each stack would be similar with a few exceptions. I would have daily and homework assignment notebooks. I would have quiz, test and exam notebooks. I might also have vocabulary, journal and lab notebooks. All of these notebooks would be shared with each student in my classroom. In addition to all these notebooks I would have a development notebook. This notebook would not be shared. I would use this notebook to store all my pending assignments, homework, assessments and other materials. In addition I would have one more shared notebook for parents. This would be the homework assignment notebook that students see. In this way, parents know what homework assignments are provided each day and they don’t need an Evernote account. With all my notebooks in place I am ready to distribute any content I feel necessary.
Each student would also create several notebooks. Their notebooks would mirror my own with some modifications. As a teacher my notebooks would have view only rights. Students need to give me modify rights. Student notebooks also need to abide by a naming convention. Naming conventions are very important when collaborating. Naming conventions assure you can find and identify documents shared with you or anyone else. As a teacher you will also need to abide by naming conventions. I talk about those conventions later. In the mean time, this is my naming convention. Each notebook is named according to this convention. The student’s last name is first in the notebook name, followed by the student’s first name, subject and finally by the notebook contents. So if I were a student my math assignment notebook would be named like this (Reyes, Alex, Math, Assignment). Notice the commas. Using this convention I can easily keep track of all my student notebooks because they can be sorted alphabetically. Evernote helps to further organize these notebooks by grouping them according to owner. Students can have one or more development notebooks.

Technology Integration with Evernote: Collaboration


This is where we take a simple set of notebooks and take them to the next level. This is the point where Evernote shines as a teaching tool. One of the options available for notebooks is to share a notebook with another Evernote account. When you decide to share a notebook the recipient receives an invitation through email and through the Evernote application. When the other account accepts the invitation, he or she has instant access to all notes placed in that notebook. The notes are synced as often as Evernote syncs, or whenever the writer initiates a manual sync.

When sharing you have the option to have the notebook be read only. This means the person can only see the notebook content and won’t be able to change anything. Another option is to allow the invited person to modify the contents. This doesn’t mean that individuals can collaboratively create a document at the same time. Notes are not synchronous. If you want to make a notebook where an invited account can modify content, you will need to set workflow guidelines. At this point I don’t recommend sharing a notebook with modification rights. Wait until you feel more comfortable with this workflow. I will cover workflow in greater detail later. Use a combination of web share and individual sharing. Share as many notebooks as necessary.

Teacher and student collaboration:
What does this mean for teacher and student collaboration? As a teacher you can share a notebook for homework assignments, classroom assignments, or quizzes and projects. Students can refer to these notebooks or copy and paste any content into their own notebook. Remember, student’s should not have rights to modify a shared notebook from you.

From the student perspective the process is very similar. Students will share a notebooks with you. These notebooks can have similar formats. Students can share a homework or daily assignment notebook.


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