Day 13: Keep it Simple With Edtech

Professional development topics: Integrating Technology in the Classroom, 1 to 1, Apps for iPads, GAFE, Blended Learning, 21st Century Education…

We are familiar with the endless list, which seems to change every time we get comfortable with a product. These sessions produce mixed reactions and establish varying levels of expertise. Some cringe at the very sound of professional development, particularly when the the topic of edtech will force them beyond their comfort zone.

Of course, there are the tech wizards and ninjas in our midst. They have the innate ability to channel the force of wi-fi and induce magic with their fingertips. They possess a new level of cool.

There are the tech-curious, willing to experiment with anything new if it looks as if it will engage learners or enhance their teaching. From there, they might rely on several favorites. I fall into this category. Of this group, some have a solid understanding of the basics and find practical means of tech integration. Others jump at anything shiny but end up with a limited understanding. Regardless of attitude and expertise, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the limitless options.

We know it’s not the tools; it’s how we use them to make our teaching more effective. With that understanding, I like to see what’s available, but invest my energy into a select few to maximize what I do and keep life simple.

My most important professional development resource is Twitter. Twitter allows me to network with other like-minded educators, willing to share resources, experiences, and questions. The learning is constant. I have the freedom to invest as much as I choose; it is a wonderland of information and everyone’s invited to the party. To maximize learning, I rely on TweetDeck–actually, I can’t survive without it. The simple Chrome app allows me to organize my quest for knowledge in columns by hashtags and focused lists. TweetDeck is a must for participants of Twitter chats.

From there, I share my learning with colleagues and students. Within the classroom, I focus on the Google Apps for Education. I appreciate the numerous alternatives, but I have committed to really invest in the Google Apps (which I write about frequently). I have been to a Google Summit and led staff development sessions. Our school’s shift to GAFE technology is making a great impact on education in our district. It is crazy to consider the power and possibilities of the Cloud.

Other tech favorites include: WordPress, home of this blog; NoRedInk, for simple, student-friendly grammar practice; and FreeRice.com, to aid learning (of numerous subjects/categories) while providing aid to support the World Food Programme–a genius concept. Try it if you have not. Adding ten grains of rice for every correct answer is addictive.

The rest of what I do with technology depends on my students. I invite them to introduce their favorite apps and resources whenever possible. Students should be leading us further into their digital world, to maximize the potential of a global classroom.

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