Want to use edtech, but not sure where to start?
By following one or more of Adam's social media accounts (see the bottom of his "Watson's World" page), you can keep up to date with the latest digital tools, edtech articles, and teaching strategies.
Before you begin thinking about specific digital tools, first consider how integrating edtech can transform a classroom into something not even possible five years ago, where students are creators, have choice in what they use, and impact not just their classroom but the world. Familiarize yourself with SAMR and how to apply that acronym reflectively on your own instruction.
If you are a new teacher to Shelby County, read over this Google Doc to give you a starting place for first steps to access Empower, G Suite for Education (Google Drive), our Clever portal (Lexia, Dreambox, and more), and Edgenuity accounts.
If you want suggestions of some edtech tools (many of which have been proven to be popular and effective in our district), here is an alphabetized list.
NOTE: These recommendations are based on the experiences of Mr. Watson and Shelby staff. This list is NOT meant to imply an official endorsement of these tools or companies by Shelby County Public Schools or any other person or entity.
Classcraft "Primer" Google Doc (Helpful first steps on how to use Classcraft)
In our transformation of student learning to be more personalized, we recognize the challenges in teaching and reinforcing the so-called "soft skills" or "executive functioning": the ability for young people to cooperate, empathize, use time wisely, and so on. Classcraft uses gamified elements to help students grow their soft skills by rewarding positive behavior. By creating avatars that gain "experience points" which can be used to upgrade their powers and equipment, students are motivated and engaged to be effective independent learners.
Imagine taking already online videos (say, on YouTube) and embedding questions and automatic stop points as a student accesses your video. Instead of being passive viewers, they are actively engaged participants. Their answers are also accessible as data from the teacher's side of the fence. EDpuzzle could be a great tool for building accountability (and pre-assess need) on a flipped video homework assignment. Read this blog entry for more!
Empower is not only our district's Learning Management System (LMS), but an opportunity to track student mastery of standards and competencies beyond just one teacher's classroom during one academic year -- instead, a student can see their mastery over their multi-year academic journey.
Logging into Empower is done via your Shelby Google account (click the "Sign In with Google" button).
Quick Start Guide (Beginners, start here! Updates ended January 2019.)
Advanced Info and Revised Guide (ongoing updates)
If you are interested in how Empower calculates scores, read this Doc.
Flipgrid is a way to increase discussion and assess mastery in a non-print way. Pose a question on your grid, and students answer by recording a short video response. Other visitors to the same grid can see these responses, and (in the paid version) even video respond directly to them! Read this blog entry for more. It's an easy way to increase and deepen discourse.
This Prezi will give some strategies to consider when flipping and blending your classroom, including using digital tools such as Khan Academy, TedEd talks, and ShowMe (iOS app).
You might also read the following blog entries:
"Garlic Necklace, Not a Silver Bullet" (the importance of multiple tools instead of finding "the one")
An online formative assessment tool (called, somewhat confusingly, Formative) where teachers can see results in real time, it has a few unique features, including a way to submit a drawing as an answer to a question or uploading a PDF that becomes an interactive document. Here is a blog entry with more information.
As most people know, G Suite for Education is a combination of things: a cloud-based storage Drive, a plethora of apps to create and collaborate, and more. Shelby became a Google Domain in 2015.
Below are some links to helpful Google information (or click here to follow all blog entries tagged with "Google Drive"). This isn't meant to be all-inclusive, but can give you a running start!
Flubaroo, Doctopus, and Goobric (Google add-on's)
Google Shared Drives (formerly called "Team Drives")
Blog Entry: "Game-Based Learning and Classcraft"
Blog Entry: "Creating a RPG adventure for your Classroom"
Presentation agenda: "First Person Scholar: The How's and Why's of Game-Based Learning" (Google Slides presentation)
Game-based and gamification learning (read this article to see the nuanced difference) have been gaining steam lately as a highly engaging way for students to acquire content, apply skills, and practice the 4 C's (collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and cooperation). The above agenda is from a presentation Adam gave at the 2017 JCPS Deeper Learning Symposium, which has links to recommended books, articles, and resources on games in education. The Google Slides (and agenda) highlights several pragmatic tools as well, such as Classcraft, Mission U.S., and Legends of Learning; the blog entry on role-playing games also contains links to tools such as Habitica, Lone Wolf Online, and Inklewriter.
Kahoot is a gamified way to do fun formative assessments. Teachers advance through questions at the pace they control, and students earn points for how quick and accurate they answer. Leaderboards after every question let students know their standings. Teachers can run reports afterwards to determine individual answers and other useful data such as response time. One of the few possible drawbacks is that it requires a central display (such as a projector) for students to see the questions and possible answers. Read this blog entry for more information.
While makerspaces traditionally are thought of as library areas, the materials that populate a makerspace can often be integrated anywhere, into any lesson. This list, complied by Shelby staff, has a list of digital and non-digital ways that students can invent, design, ideate, and create.
Don't know what to do with all of your expertly crafted slideshow presentations? Trying to transition from lecture/direct instruction to a more engaging, student-centered tool? Nearpod is a user friendly digital tool to save the day. It's basically a guided presentation tool with interactive elements. Upload your PowerPoint (or using a Chrome extension, "Nearpodize" your Google Slide, or use the Nearpod Add-On to add content while making your Slides!), then add interactive elements such as polls, open ended questions, and even drawing. When finished, the presenter can go live, and anyone can join the session (any Internet device will do) via a special PIN number. The presenter then guides the slides, controlling when and how fast to push them out. Responses to interactive elements can be seen by the presenter in real time (audience responses can even be anonymously shared to all of the participant screens) and a data report can be exported at the end of the session. Because Nearpod does not require a main screen, a presenter could control it with a mobile device (monitoring responses) while the audience views and interacts on their own tech.
Nearpod now offers VR presentations. Take a virtual field trip in 360 degree to places around the world, including college campuses! Even better, they work just fine on Chromebooks.
For more information on Nearpod, read this blog entry.
In Shelby County, personalized and project-based learning are key elements in our goal for more student-centered classrooms. This Google Slides shares some digital tools and resources to help, such as Gooru, Newsela, TweenTribune, and Buck Institute's Project Search.
Julia Lyles (Heritage Elementary) created a website detailing her own journey into personalized learning, and is well worth a visit.
Also, here are some helpful blog entries:
"PBL and Eusessments" (read this first for an intro into the mindset of PBL)
Before Shelby's 1:1 initiative was complete, there was often an inequity of devices, especially at the elementary level. Plickers is a perfect tool for such situations, and even post-1:1, many students still enjoy the unique interactive nature of the assessment. All you need is one mobile device (like a smartphone or iPad), a projector hooked to a computer, and response cards (free to print out from the Plickers website). Students use the cards to answer questions, while the teacher uses an app on the mobile device to scan and assess the responses. The results show up in real time on the projector computer and data can be analyzed later. Read this blog entry for more information, or watch this playlist of YouTube videos by Adam Watson. (Note the interface may vary slightly, as the videos and blog entry were done in 2014.)
QR codes are an excellent rapid way of accessing material, typically a website. With a QR code created and displayed, a person usually uses a smartphone or an iPad with any QR reader app (nearly all are free) to "scan" the code and get access to the material. However, what if you don't have 1:1 smartphones or iPads? And with something like Empower where you can easily just post a link, why bother with a QR code?
To the latter, an argument could be made for the positive kinesthetic nature of using QR codes (walk around and scan...); how QR codes could be part of "self-service" stations, especially for younger learners; how QR codes can be more than just links (for example, they could be a short message of text). To the former, a website called QR Code Generator allows you to scan via your browser; no program needs to be installed. Just go to the link, give permission to your camera the first time you visit, and you can use your laptop as a QR code scanner! At the same site, you can also create static and dynamic QR codes to save as images or print.
Quizalize is another game-like formative assessment. However, unlike a similar tool Kahoot, all the questions and answered are pushed to the student's screen; there is no need for a main screen or projector, although a "leaderboard" can be displayed. A teacher can create an "open time" where anyone with the class code can join in anytime, and their dashboard allows real time results. Data can be exported later. Quizalize also allows questions to be tagged with topics so you can see patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Read this blog entry for more detail.
Screencasting is a great way for teachers to create a "how to" video, a flipped video for content acquisition, or personalized materials for their classes. Students can also use screencasting for their own presentation needs. Here are some suggestions:
Screencast-o-matic is a program that works best when downloaded and installed, although it can work inside your browser.
If you are using Chromebooks, Screencastify is a popular choice. It is an extension in your Chrome browser, and videos are automatically saved to your Drive.
For more information and a comparison of the two tools, read this blog entry.
Last but not least, Macbooks have a built-in screencasting option. Click here to view a how-to video.
Socrative has endured over the years as an effective and reliable tool for formative assessment. It can be handy for "quick questions" where you give a verbal prompt and students answer accordingly (true/false, multiple choice, open answer), but you can also create quizzes in advance; they can be teacher paced or have open student navigation. Your "room" can be joined without students having an account, although rosters can be created. (The room number will stay the same, unlike a tool like Nearpod which will change the PIN every time you run a new session.) You can see results in real time and easily export final data. The basic version is free but a Pro version has just been released with more features.
Thinglink is a great way to get students to think about the impact of visual design as well as increase their visual literacy. The user uploads an image and places icons where appropriate. (For demonstration of deeper thinking, users should consider both the type of icon chosen as well as the "why" behind where it is placed.) Each icon becomes a link to a website, a pop-up of text information, or an already published video (such as YouTube) that you can play within Thinglink. Published Thinglinks have URLs that can be shared for others to see. While primarily a web-based tool, the iOS app for Thinglink allows you to record and directly embed your own videos. For more information, read this blog entry.