Six EdTech Tips You Can Use Today

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Educational technology (also known as instructional technology), or edtech if your savvy, is all the rage right now.  Partly I believe this is because there is big money being spent in education on 1-to-1 digital initiatives and other instructional technology programs.  However, I also believe part of the reason of edtech's popularity is that we finally have critical mass:  enough teachers who are using various technology tools and showing success with them - that finally even those who were reluctant intially are beginning to listen and want to know more.

Today's blog gives a half-dozen tips for those who are interested in making small tech investments that will have big educational yields. 

1.  SMS

No doubt you've heard of "sexting" (texting sexually explicit messages) and know how texting can sometimes be trouble if not used wisely.  Well, edtip #1 is about using SMS (aka text messaging) as a School Message System.  Teachers are always telling me how frustrated they are that their students can recite verbatim the words to the latest pop song but can't remember to bring their completed pre-class work with them.  My recommendation to these teachers?  Text your students with reminders!  We all know our students are glued to their phones: now we can use that power for good!  Although there are many choices, my favorite tool for SMS is Remind101.  I like it because it is a web-based tool (no installation necessary), open-source (aka free!), and super easy to use.  Plus, it's super-safe in that neither party sees the actual cell phone numbers and it's one-way communication (so you don't have to worry that suddenly you will be inundated with texts from your students).  The students love it because it makes them feel connected to you in a way they can relate to:  they think it's cool (and we all benefit from that!).   

2.  Socialize

Your students are using social media already, use that tremendous power for educational gain!  Teachers I help often mention their wish to extend the time their students spend on learning, or even just thinking about, their content area.  My suggestion to those teachers?  Tweet!  We all know that students today are using social media in staggering numbers:  now we can use that intense addiction to help them engage with our subject matter in ways never before possible.  Although there are many social media platforms, my favorite edtech tool for social media is Twitter.  What's a bit ironic is that the very reason I like it is why I used to hate it:  the 140-character limit on the message that can be conveyed.  When I first learned about Twitter I thought, "This can't be useful -- what on earth can be said in 140 characters or less that is worth reading?"  How wrong I was! Now that I've mastered the hashtag, learned to utilize the search feature, and figured out about who to follow and how to create lists, I actually use Twitter for 85% of my informational needs.  Teachers I work with are universally surprised at the tremendously positive results they receive when they try a Twitter-based assignment.  One of my favorites is Tweets from History (where the student has to create a series of tweets in the voice of a historical person) -- I've used this assignment with great success when matched with a research-paper assignment for women mathematicians.

3.  Be Brief

Students today are into short messages. The first two edtips tangentially touch on this trend, but edtech tip #3 is about the video version:  Vine.  Many teachers I work with bemoan their students extremely short attention spans and I can certainly relate.  When I first heard of Vine, I thought, "There is no way that anything useful can come out of a video that only lasts six seconds!"  How wrong I was!  Now granted, so far, Vine has not really caught fire as an edtech tool; however, I think it's just a matter of, uh, time. *embarrassed grin* Here's what I tell teachers to help convince them to try this tip:  It is MUCH more challenging to create a six-second video that clearly conveys a useful message that to write a 5 page paper!  If you don't believe me, just try it.  The other thing I love about using Vine in education, especially math education, is that it encourages re-do's and second (and third and fourth) attempts -- something that is VERY valuable in learning mathematics.  That's because creating a Vine only takes mere seconds to do.  There are many great ideas for using Vine in education.  This article gives 5 examples, my favorite is 6-second Shakespeare.

4.  Take it offline

One of the main goals teachers tell me they want to achieve in our sessions is regaining their instructional time.  A wonderful way to accomplish that is by employing edtech tools wisely and moving some learning outside of the classroom.  My favorite edtech tool for this is Screencast-o-matic.  I love this tool because it is open-source (my favorite kind!), requires no installation, and is super easy to use. I've mentioned this tool before in this blog and that blog too.  If you have skills-based or technology-based instructions that you now use class time to provide, take them offline and regain that time for the good stuff (like problem solving or discussing solutions or engaging in "what if" scenarios to extend the learning).

5.  Engage

Students WILL talk, endlessly, about stuff.  Unfortunately, too many times that "stuff" is not class- or content-related.  But effective use of edtech can change that!  You can harness that discussion and turn it to content-related topics thus extending your students time spent on task.  *Cue the angels singing*  Imagine:  you've just had a wonderful class session with your students and you want the conversation (and the thinking) to continue even though class is over.  You can!  Just employ one of the edtech strategies that I teach in my Edtech to Success program and your students will continue to engage with you, with each other, and with the content long after the class session is over.

6. Be Creative

Students love it when you give them free rein to be creative.  Unfortunately, too many teachers have neither the time to invent these creative assignments or the technology know-how to make them easy to implement.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  You can offer creative assignments like QR Code Scavenger Hunt and Photograph Geometry that your students will LOVE.  With just a few edtech training sessions, you can learn how to set up the framework and let the students show you what they know in an innovative way.  It's fun for them and a great learning experience too!

* Bonus *

I always like to give a little extra so here's your edtech bonus tip:  instead of a traditional timer to keep your students on track during class, use Slacker Radio.  Tune to an appropriate channel (I always like nonverbal Chill when it's a work-related task), and tell your students something like, "You have 3 songs to complete this assignment before we begin discussing it."  They love the change-of-pace, the music helps create the mood of learning as fun, and, to reward students I want to encourage, I will often let them choose the next channel to listen to -- talk about motivation to succeed!

There you have it, six edtech tips (+ a bonus) you can use today to begin regaining instructional time, increase student engagement, and improve student understanding of your content.  As always, I'd love to hear from you: link 

If you'd like to learn more, please click here to set up a free edtech consultation. If you're ready to sign up now, email me to enroll in one of our edtech programs.


The Solver Blog

Author:  Dr. Diana S. Perdue

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