My Experience At The 2020 UCET Conference

Recently I went to Utah Coalition for Educational Technology (UCET) conference in Provo, Utah. A big conference for tech nerdy teachers, and those aspiring to be. It was incredible. 

We started each day with a keynote speaker- Matt Miller @jmattmiller and Richard Culatta @rec54 where each spoke about technology in the classroom, the benefits, and how easily accessible it can be. Richard focused on digital citizenship and the responsibility that it entails.  

During breakout sessions, they had options to learn more about everything tech imaginable spanning from Google Drive, Google sheets, to Nearpod, to Skype and more. Technology is advancing and we as teachers are here for the hype. 

The timing of the conference could not have come at a better time with Covid-19 shutdowns all across the world. Teachers, coaches, and administrators walked out of there with the tools they needed for schools being based online and at home for the foreseeable future. 

After being surrounded by AR, VR, Microsoft, Google, Apple, iPads, laptops, and more, I am feeling fired up and ready to put these ideas to use! But wait…. I’m not teaching right now! That’s where you will come in. I’ll share my findings on this space over the next few weeks and YOU can implement them into your classrooms and then share with me. 

Next year if you’re in the area, check out this UCET conference and learn more for yourself, your school, and your students about technology and digital citizenship, it won’t disappoint. 

This post is not sponsored by UCET.

Troubleshooting Global Collaboration In Classrooms

Recently I wrote about writing to a global, authentic audience, and now I want to take it a little further. Collaboration. Globally. 

How do we collaborate between classrooms, schools, and students? It seems so easy, and so hard at the same time. Where do you start? I’m here to tell you just how easy and cheap it can be. 

Do you have internet access? Do you have a webcam and a microphone on a usable device? Can you easily navigate a website? Is your budget $0? This is for you. 

skypeintheclassroom.com where you can set up virtual field trips, Skype with other classrooms, invite a guest speaker via skype, collaborate on projects, and MORE. You can easily search what you are looking for and apply filters. Browse the website for five minutes and you’ll see just how easy it can be. 

Google Drive- a tool the majority of teachers know, but let’s use it beyond our classroom. Think, penpals across the nation or across the world using a GoogleDoc. Students solving problems by bouncing ideas off of other students in different states, with instant results. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -Matt Miller 

Are you a dual immersion teacher? Or a teacher of Spanish? French? Imagine a Skype call in your French class with a classroom in France learning to speak English. 

What about a history teacher? Maybe finding a classroom who has been on a field trip to a historical site and can tell your students all about it. Both benefit. Or vice versa if you’ve been on a cool field trip with your students that they can share. 

But what if you can’t find a classroom to Skype that fits your needs? Get creative. Social media is a huge global tool. HUGE. Tweet out your idea of a skyping classroom, ask for friends to retweet and share, and see where it goes. Contact schools worldwide to see if they have any teachers with the same interest as you. 

Are you seeing the same benefits I am? Why learn from one single teacher when the possibilities of education literally have no walls or limits? There is too much knowledge in this world to keep it within the four walls of our classroom. 

Now go out and be global teachers and create global learners like this class! 

Technology Interview With Dr. Rose Judd-Murray

I recently conducted an interview with Dr. Rose Judd-Murray, a past professor of mine at Utah State University that teaches in the school of Applied Sciences, Technology, and Education. I felt like she would have some excellent insight on technology in the classroom as both an educator and a student, and after the interview was conducted, her answers did not disappoint! There is a lot of golden information here both for educators who are new to technology, and those who are deep in the tech universe. 

How have you seen technology in education change over the years? 

“The most positive change I have seen in the last five years has been the focus on universal design and the improvement of connection-building for online delivery of courses. There are good ways to connect online and some really poor ways—I see both used, but at least at my institution, there is a great deal of effort expended to try and educate faculty on how to understand how and why for using the good techniques.”

What are the ways you’ve seen student improvement by using technology in the classroom? 

“Content has to be relatable to be relevant. Faculty and/or instructors that aren’t using technology to make their content relevant for Gen Z & Alpha lose credibility and application with their students. I see the greatest amount of student improvement in engagement and motivation when they can see that there are real-world applications within the content. I’m a teacher advocate for using technology to connect to professionals and organizations that build these bridges for our students.”

In what ways have you seen technology help our society as a whole? 

“I believe that technology solves problems. Technology is the application of science to find solutions to our societal problems. There is tremendous potential for us to use technology to improve human conditions, environmental degradation, and create a sustainable planet for future generations. The key is that technology is applied by humans—and while an invention can be “created” to fill one purpose it may be applied in many other ways. It is our responsibility to understand that technology can hurt as well as heal and if we aren’t paying attention and actively engaging for a democratic application there will be very real consequences. The adage, “technology is dangerous” is only true if we fail to take responsibility for how we use it.”

Why is technology in education so important to you as a professor? And why was it important to you as a student? 

“Because of the consequences if we fail to see how/why it can be used poorly. The same technology that allows people to expand their families and has the potential to eliminate generations of crippling disease also possesses the potential for excessive genetic manipulation. It’s shocking to me how few people see the connections—and even more disturbing how quickly real scientific fact is manipulated for personal greed or political fodder. Providing the context and content for enabling a technologically literate society, enables us to embrace facts and enforce an ethical standard. The ethical standards set by the United States have an incredible influence on a global society. We have a significant responsibility to make sure that our students possess the capability to lead.”

In what ways have you been frustrated with tech as an educator, or as a student?

“There’s always something that doesn’t go right at the very last minute. Truthfully, I usually don’t pass on my frustrations to the technology. The biggest challenges I encounter are with instructors who simply refuse to evolve, incorporate, or adapt to the needs of our students. The days of only using PowerPoint to connect are long gone. I have a colleague who is a great advocate for gamification in the classroom. His incorporation of tech to create suspense, motivation, and competition has really transformed my version of acceptable class time. Being a teacher is the toughest job because it is a constant and continual learning process—BUT that’s the job—and we can do a better job of preparing them at the pre-service and in-service level for using technology effectively.”

Is there anything else you would like to add that would be helpful to know? 

“I know how overwhelming it can feel to want to improve your understanding of technology. Pick one thing. Make it your goal for the whole school year. If it’s just content knowledge, use a good book like, How We Got To Now by Steven Johnson. Think about how you can use readings, experiences, and historical perspective to get your students thinking about old and new technology. If you’re struggling with simply using technology in your class, again, keep it basic until you are so comfortable with an app (like Kahoot!) that you can pull something together on the fly. Learning how to use one application effectively and efficiently (e.g., polling students in real-time) is a much better use of your time than trying to run a vlog, and Twitter, and Quizlet. My go-to practice is to know exactly what I can use and when I can use it. It makes me feel tech-powerful.”

Dr. Judd-Murray has great insight into how we can see technology advance every day, as well as both the how and why we use it in the classroom. As she stated, we are using technology to create a relatable environment for students. We are stepping out of our comfort zones to create meaningful content for them. Technology is here to stay, and if we let it, we can use it to solve our problems and make our lives in schools a little easier. 

Student Access to Writing for a Global Audience

Do you remember the days when you got back from summer vacation and within the first week you did a writing prompt: “What Did You Do For Summer Vacation?” and once you were finished writing it was filed back in your backpack, maybe hung on the fridge by your parents? If you were lucky, your teacher might just hang it up in the hallway for passing students and teachers to read. 

I think the majority of teachers are on the same page that students need an authentic audience to produce authentic work. When they know who they are writing to and why it gives them a purpose to not only write, but write well. So who is their audience? Peers? Teachers? Parents? Maybe they are writing something specifically for their principal? How do we move beyond the walls of our schools and write to a bigger audience? I’m not just talking in our neighborhoods or even states. I’m talking globally.

In my research on writing to a global audience, it seems to be a fairly uncommon thing still. Putting your students work out there for the world to see can be scary, people can be mean with comments and you never know who will see it. It’s also new and different, this new use of technology in schools is still developing, teachers are still being trained in new ways every day to incorporate tech in the classroom. 

So what are the benefits of writing to a global audience? First, having an authentic audience. Everyone has a desire to do better and try harder when they know their results will be public and it gives their writing a deeper purpose. Also, global collaboration can take place. Students have been sharing writing with peers, but what if a student in California sent their “What Did You Do This Summer” paper to a student in Wisconsin and vice-versa? 

Not only could they help peer-edit, but they can compare and contrast a summer in California to a summer in Wisconsin. What if they compared their winter vacations? Can you even imagine the learning that could take place with this type of collaboration? What if the student in California was writing to a student in China? Or India? We can have our kids read about winters in China out of a book and hope they remember it, or we can have them learn about winters in China first-hand from a student who is living there. Which do you think would stick better in their brain? 

Teachers may not know how to start sending out their student’s work to a global audience yet. Some ideas include via email, social media such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and more, SeeSaw, or publish to blogs. Mary wrote more in detail about how to utilize the internet for student writing a few years back. The best part of the internet is that limits do not exist. New platforms pop up each and every day and if something you need doesn’t exist, it’s simple to create it yourself. The internet can be a powerful place if we let it. 

If your students are writing to a global audience, I would love to hear about it! Comment below and let me know how you’re accomplishing this. 

The Whos, the Whats, and the Whys of EdTech

Technology in schools is ever-growing. In fact, I wrote a whole post about the evolution of technology and how the computers and iPads I used in school are now archaic. Laptops were not even a possibility, and this was only 10 or so years ago. 

EdTech in the education world is HUGE right now. Administrators, teachers, and parents are mostly accepting these advancements with open arms. You can find #EdTech and #EdTechChat all over twitter right now. 

So who is involved in this educational technology around the world? No age limit exists. College classes that hold all ages are using it. Elementary schools down to kindergarten hold some type of computer, iPad, or smart screen. You can even find it in preschools and daycares! Technology is not limited to a certain age by any means. Years ago we were limited by funding, especially without the sound research that it would work and benefit students. However, technology prices are dropping and becoming more affordable as we continue to learn new ways to create what we need. 

What kind of technology are we using in schools? Chromebooks and iPads are just the start of it. Augmented and virtual reality is becoming a big part of classrooms. Now we aren’t talking about the pyramids in Egypt, we’re visiting them and seeing them with our own eyes, yet in our own classrooms. Whiteboards are electronic, papers are typed, not written, and collaborating moves beyond the walls of the school, sometimes even beyond our nation! 

This technology advancement is taking place everywhere. I recently listened to a podcast about how a community in the rural areas of Florida are coming together to create more wifi accessibility to students. Resturants around the town were installing more free wifi for students to come to use after school, as well as leaving the school grounds open for sitting outside and using wifi. From big cities to small towns, technology is hitting the hands of students all over the world.  

Why are we becoming such technology-driven schools? It’s for the students. It’s all for the students. Plenty of studies have come out to show the benefit of using these apps and resources in our classrooms. We are providing them with more hands-on opportunities and more real-life skills because the technology they use in schools will carry out into their careers someday. It’s rare to find a job that doesn’t require some sort of competence on a computer, iPad, tablet, or with functions like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Google Drive. 

Tech is taking over our schools, and we can either shut it out and keep to our traditional teaching ways, or we can accept it with open arms to give our students the best chance at the best education. 

How are you using technology in your classroom? 

The Evolution of Technology: How it’s Used in the Classroom

When I was in first grade, our classroom had a set of three computers that sat on a table in our classroom, taking up a good chunk of space. The computers looked very similar to this: 

They were big and incredibly slow. The day my teacher announced that we would be doing some testing on the computers was a big day in our school, we were advancing at what we felt was such a rapid pace back then. Sometimes we would type papers on the computers and print them out, it made us feel extra fancy! By the time I left elementary school, our school had a drastic upgrade in computer technology in the classrooms. The new sets looked similar to these: 

With the smaller screen and slimmer computer deck, we were able to fit more into each classroom. They ran faster and we were able to do more, like access the internet for classroom use and the speakers allowed us to hear videos (if we could get them to load). Gone were the days of researching solely through textbooks, now we could look up scholarly articles and websites for more information! It was 2005 and it was revolutionary. 

Later in my 10th-grade Biology class, my teacher was applying for a grant that would supply our classroom with a set of 30 iPads. This type of thinking was astronomical, iPads had just come out that year, they were a new concept and tool and it didn’t seem like this forward-thinking would ever be rewarded. Others around the school, teachers, students, and parents mocked him for thinking something of the sort would even be a possibility. He was fairly confident it would happen. He listed out ways for us of how useful they could be, flashcard apps, looking up information, reviews, tests, using powerpoints and multiple other online materials to enhance our learning. I truly cannot reiterate enough how out-of-this-world it all seemed. 

When the grant was passed and 30 first-generation iPads entered our classroom, it was a monumental day. I remember my biology teacher standing in front of us saying, “We are living in the middle of a technological revolution. By the time you are in college, these iPads will be dinosaurs. We should never be afraid to embrace the technology, it can be here to help you, let it, but within reason.” We used the iPads for PowerPoint slides, notes, and videos we would create for each other. We felt like we were making history, because well, we really were

iPads are still around ten years later, but not in the same way they were ten years ago. If any of us were to pick up a first-gen iPad today, we would laugh. Yet, ten years ago it was like holding gold in our fingertips! It’s incredible to see the advances and changes technology has made over the years, and how it has affected our schools- both in the good ways and the bad ways. 

I believe deeply that technology can be an incredible tool for us in our classrooms when used correctly. I’ve witnessed firsthand how impactful these resources have been to students, no matter what level they may be on. My hope is that I can use this space over the next few weeks to highlight ways we as educators can and have been using technology in classrooms and schools as a whole. Chromebooks, iPads, smart projectors, and other resources have been popping up in schools all over the nation, so let’s make some great lists on great ways to use them! 

What technology do you have in your classroom? In what ways has it helped and hindered your students?