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3 Easy Ways to Go Digital

3 Easy Ways to Go Digital

With all the ed tech possibilties out there right now, finding what’s right for you and your students can be overwhelming! There’s a hundred different ways to bring tech into your classroom and at least 10 different apps/companies for each way. Where do you start???

I’ve put together 3 of the easiest ways to bring your classroom into the 21st Century without overwhelming yourself or breaking the bank. These are also the 3 things I did when I first started exploring the ed tech world so they’re tried and true. 🙂

1. Upgrade your parent communication.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hard-copies of things. I even use a paper planner to keep track of dates and important info for my blog. But there are also a lot of excuses that come along with paper-based communication at school: “I lost it”, “I forgot my folder”, “My dog ate it”, etc.

With everything in our world becoming cloud-based, the reality is that our students’ families check email and social medai way more often than they do their child’s backpack. So why not meet families where they are most comfortable?

Here’s a few suggestions:

Class Dojo– I use this for my behavior management system but Class Dojo also offers a fantastic parent messaging system! This app is extremely easy to use, and is available FREE for iOS, Android, and computers. The messaging feature looks a lot like texting and makes communication between you and one parent, or all parents, fast and easy. You can even set Quiet Hours for messages so you aren’t getting notifications in the middle of the night or on weekends. Class Dojo has also introduced “Stories” where you can post photos and videos of student work during the day to really bring parents into your classroom community.

Remind-Send text reminders to parents! This is great for weekly reminders, field trips, and school-wide announcements. You can even organize your contacts into groups- great when you teach more than one course.

https://www.remind.com/apps

Twitter– You may think it’s just for celebrity gossip and Donald Trump tweets, but Twitter is a really powerful (free!) resource! I’ve worked with teachers who tweeted out nightly homework assignments and parent reminders. Personally, I love to share things that are going on in my classroom or school to share our school community with others. That way, no one could say they “forgot to write it down” or left their planner at school. TeachHub has a list of 50 ways to use Twitter in the classroom to help you get started.

The Ole Reliable, Email– It’s not as fancy or cute as some of the other parent communication apps out there, but it still gets the job done. I send out a weekly email to families with all the reminders and important dates  for the week ahead. They all really enjoy having this info at their fingertips all week long and it’s an easy way for me to keep them in the loop.

This is a sample of my weekly email to parents. SO much easier than paper copies!

2. Incorporate digital portfolios

The easiest way I started using my class iPads was through digital portfolios. Students were regularly snapping photos of their best work, video recording themselves reading, and uploading digital projects they created.

I was tired of lugging journals home for grading and I was overwhelmed by having to find a home for student journals for every single subject area. Now, all those things I used to have them record in their journals are uploaded to their digital portfolio and instantly shared with parents, peers, and myself for review.

The platform you use will depend on the age of your students, but here’s a few of the best:

Seesaw– As a primary teacher, this one is your best option. Seesaw is user-friendly, available on all platforms, and supports all kinds of file types from photos, to videos, to audio recordings, to drawings. I love that parents, peers, and teachers can see students’ postings, like them, and comment on them. It may seem a whole lot like a f”Facebook for kids”, but that kind of feedback is insanely motivating and meaninful for students!

An example of a post in my students’ learning journal.

Showbie– This one works a lot like an educational DropBox. Teachers create assignments in Showbie and push them out to students. Then, students upload their completed work to that assignment. Showbie takes things a step further though and allows teachers to grade within the app, provide several different kinds of feedback, and even send assignments back to students for further editing. If you’re looking to go paperless in your classroom, Showbie is a must.

https://etec602.wikispaces.com/Showbie

Class Notebook – I work in a Microsoft district so our students are pretty comfortable with Office 365. In the Class Notebook app, teachers can set up an entire online course with sections to share content with students, have students collaborate with one another, and allow students to upload artifacts and assignments into a private folder shared only with the teacher.

Bulb– This one is the new kid on the block but I can see it working well for older grades. Student journals look a lot like blog websites and completely customizable. Not free, but if you have funding available, it would be a great choice.

3. Engage in Some Online PD

When you’re not sure what tech tools would be best for your classroom, webinars are great places to start. Lots of ed tech companies will do quick 15-30 minute webinars on what their product does and how it could help you in the classroom. You can find out more just by going to their websites. Seesaw, Bulb, Tynker, and Class Dojo have tons of resources online to help you get started and other apps are following suit. 

Other great places to start are YouTube (there’s a video for everything these days), Twitter, and Instagram. Find ed tech companies on social media. Or better yet, follow some techie teachers on social media and see what they’re using in their classrooms! So much of what I’ve learned has come from the amazing teachers I follow on Twitter and Instagram. {You can learn more about using Twitter as a teacher here}

I linked a few of my favorite techie teachers below. 🙂

 

And if there’s one last piece of advice I can offer:

     Start small, but dream big!

Going digital can be messy at first, so only try to master 1-2 things at a time. But once you do, always keep growing and trying new things. Your students will thank you!


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