We all make new year resolutions, whether this is at the start of the calendar or academic year. We may keep these thoughts private, or may share with a few close allies who will support you on your journey. Having had a restful, reflective break, the new school year offers teachers the chance to give new ideas a try, and in this article – published in the August 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine – Martin Burrett shares ten tips on how you can develop your techy skills over the coming months.
If you are a regular online educator, I’m sure that you already be doing most of these things already. But if you are just starting out on your digital learning journey or know someone who is, I hope these with show you a little of what is possible.
1) Build your Personal Learning Network
Imagine a place where you can ask for a child-friendly video about the Battle of Hastings at 2am on a Thursday morning and five people point you in the direction of a perfect resource. This is your personal learning network (PLN). It’s like that teacher in your school with all the best, shiny and useful resources locked in their stock cupboard, but your PLN is not just willing, but eager to share with you. A collection of handpicked educational professionals with more resources, ideas, advice and CPD opportunities than you could ever use. If you are reading this online, there is a good chance that I’m speaking to the converted and you are already reaping the benefits of interacting and sharing resources with other educators. Twitter is a popular platform on which to build this group, and if you are not using it yet, or know educators who are not, see ukedchat.com/networking for tips on getting started.
Teachmeets are like a real life version of your PLN, where educators come together to swap ideas, resources and advice in bite size presentations. Anyone can attend and present that these free events and attendees often get a goodie bag and can win prizes. See the Teachmeet website at teachmeet.pbworks.com for more details.
2) Design a Space Online
In the past creating and designing websites was the preserve of IT professionals or technically minded enthusiast and too many wet weekends. No longer! Today’s web tools allow you and your class to make beautiful, media rich, and fully functional websites in a few minutes with the same level of skill as making a PowerPoint. There are lots of free sites out there to choose from. A few of my favourites are wix.com and sites.google.com. Find more on my Tech and Computing page via bit.ly/uked14aug03.
A variation on a website is to create a wiki page which can make collaboration easier.
Your page could be about the activities you are doing in class. The tools are simple enough for most older primary aged children to use independently.
3) Get Social
Children learn best when they are learning together. Collaboration and communication form the cornerstones of the modern classroom and social networking and blogging are becoming an important part of daily life. Explore social media in a secure and safe way with free tools like twiducate.com, which is a service similar to Twitter, which can only be seen by the class. Students can upload images, videos and write text in various fonts and styles. Another free tool is kidblog.org which has all the functionality of a regular blog with videos, text and images. But you can choose to have a closed blog which only the class can see. Alternatively, you can have a public blog, but all posts are moderated by you. You can set it up so you receive an email every time your class submit something for you to take a look at. Both tools shouldn’t take to more than an hour to set up. Many other blogging sites are available.
4) Work with Another School
You could work with a school down the road or with a school on the other side of the world. Video chat tools allow you communicate and collaborate almost as easy as working with a class on the furthest side of your own school. Activities can start with simple things like swapping work. Over time you will have ideas which will blossom into projects and collaborations. There are many good websites to find schools who want to find international partners. Try the sites at bbc.co.uk/worldclass and quadblogging.com to find suitable partnerships.
5) Do IT outside
The days of the computer suite are numbered and going mobile has become commonplace, first with laptops and now with tablet computers and mobile phones. Wireless technology allows educators to get out of the classroom and into the environment.
If you have a wireless network in your school, you should be able to find network coverage for your laptops in an outdoor area, although you may need to wander around like Mr Spock with his Tricorder to find it. “It’s broadband Jim, but not as we know it!”
If your network doesn’t reach outside, you may still be able to be connected your devices to the web when outside. Most modern mobile phones and tablets, have the ability to use their data connection with other devices to make a mobile hotspot.
Once outside you have so many possibilities. Science and geography activities can take on new meaning for your class and you can even play a high tech game of hide and seek, called Geocaching (see geocaching.com for more information).