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Cloud computing applies real flexibility to function. I use Evernote and Dropbox in my role as an educator and for personal organization. These two tools combine to allow users to take notes on a desktop or laptop computer, iPad or smartphone then post them to viewed or downloaded by other users.
The possible uses of this kind of power are seemingly limitless. Students can get full notes from classmates and the teacher when they miss class. Collaboration is easy and effective. Collegial discussions become organic as teachers and administrators are readily able to share best practices and ideas to improve how things are done.
Any tool should improve teacher communication and allow for easier access to information for students, teachers and administrators. Cloud computing options like Evernote and Dropbox fit the bill.
Hello. My name is Matt and I am an information junkie.
Personally, I use technology in seemingly every aspect of my life. I pay my bills electronically, I do my banking online, I DVR stuff, I Skype friends and family, I use digital cable and I use a secure high-speed wireless network at home and work. I am almost genetically connected to my iPhone and all of its apps.
Five years ago my obsession would have been viewed with dubious curiosity. Today, I am in the mainstream.
In 2009, my wife and I relocated to Ft. Lauderdale. This stimulated a big change for us. We decided to drop out dependence on a “land line” in our home and switch to cell phones for communication. The change was a huge success. We got rid of the thermal fax machine, and switched to scanned PDFs and email. After a year, we began to use Facetime to talk where we could and moved into an unlimited text plan.
Learning how to best use all of these great tools, indeed, will require an investment of time, however, once in place the technology gives me much more control and freedom. I can find the best prices on items I am going to buy for the house on a Saturday afternoon. My wife and I can find maps to new restaurants and other locations on the fly. This saves me time and money.
This summer my wife and I went on a two-week vacation in France. We would not have survived without the amazing cellular network that we were able to tap into for maps, tour guides, information and communication.
Allow me to be clear. Email is not the best form of communication for all situations, nor is Facebook or texting. Voice has its best fit as well. As long as we remember this concept, we will keep all of our technology in perspective and benefit from using it.
Social media can play a solid role in the twenty-first century classroom. Like any other tool, these must be properly presented to the students and monitored to ensure academic interaction as well as to assure quality, and, from time-to-time, students will need guidance to redirect them back to the path.
At the beginning of any course in which social media will play a role, it is important to establish standards and expectations when the tool is introduced. This is best done in the course guide or syllabus, but should be reinforced with the student’s learning community and all stakeholders. Class discussions early in the process will help avoid any confusion concerning what is proper and improper use of social media in the course. Allowing students to discuss misconceptions will give everyone a better understanding of what should and should not be done.
As the students begin using their selected social media to share and interact, the instructor should monitor student interaction. The instructor’s role, here, is as a moderator, not a heavy hand. Ghosting is the best policy when it comes to monitoring student working with social media.
As issues arise, the instructor should bring attention to the problem in a general observation. Students should not be pointed out and care should be taken to make sure that student expression is not extinguished. Rather, students should be redirected, rewarded and rebuked. As students begin to go astray, the instructor should redirect students back to the topic. Those who make solid contributions should be praised, and those who are having trouble or fail to meet expectations – particularly in the arena of polity, should be corrected. Correction should be outside of the open view of other students except where such rebuke might be helpful in redirecting the whole class. In this case the rebuke should be drafted carefully so as to encourage every student toward the goal of better communication and adherence to the expectations of the class.
The clearer the instructor makes his expectations of individual students and the class as a whole, the more effective the use of social media will be in the scope of the material discussed.
It is mind boggling! The array is stunning! It can be a lot to take in! Technology keeps growing and improving. It can be overwhelming to the new teacher much less the veteran.
The key to survival is an open mind. A mind open to the idea that there might be a tool out there that can do things better than I have always done it; open to the idea that improvements are great; that I can apply new technology tools both in and outside of the classroom with confidence.
This concept not only applies to the way we present information to our students, but how we interact as educational professionals.
One tool I use is Jing. At my school, interim reports are sent to the parents of students with ‘D’ or ‘F’ averages in classes. Communication from the teacher is key. Without clear unambiguous communication about what is going on with their student, parents have no option but to go crazy. . .mostly at the teacher. With Jing, I can go over the student’s individual grade report and record my observations as I show the parent where the student’s weaknesses are.
Jing videos are better than a phone call, and if the parent wants more information, they are still free to call me. This asynchronous tool gives personal attention to each student/parent allowing for the student to correct their learning strategy for the course and improve scores for the next interim report.
Check it out…Jing.com
It is a worthy axiom of life.
Here’s a tip.
New teachers enter the classroom with heads full of what turns out to be unrealistic, untested ideals. They often carry in with them a winds of new ideas. Full of new and different perspectives on what may become mundane and routine. They can’t help but share all of their new ideas and technology with all of those with whom they interact. Sometimes to curry favor with peers and administrators, other times to “help out” a colleague. Great.
This strategy has built into its DNA the seeds of its own destruction. In this situation, seasoned teachers may gravitate to some of these new tools and pick through them like a third grade prize box . . . pulling out only the best ideas to implement in their classroom. Still, good.
When all of the seasoned teachers attempt to apply the new technology, one of three things occur: 1) The apply the technology without a full grasp of its real potential; 2) they apply the new technology without a full grasp of the limitations; 3) they apply the same technology tool their colleagues are and in the same slipshod manner.
Any of these will cause a problem for students and their learning community, but in concert they mean disaster and loss of instructional time and energy.
It is for this reason that I hold on to a new idea before rolling it out to colleagues. This gives me time to master procedures in my particular classroom and with my curriculum and academic objectives. I get to work out the kinks and then I can show my colleagues A) What it is; B) How it works; C) How I apply it; and, D) What the limitations are.
Timing of the roll-out is important. Giving myself time to delve into the “Next Big Thing” before I let everyone else in on the tool I have developed allows a competitive edge. Consider that my students take seven other classes during the school week. If they encounter a new tool used in ineffective and incorrect ways in all seven other classes, their eyes will glaze over when they use it in my class.
I want every precious moment my students have with me to be focused and well-directed toward deep understanding of objectives. Holding a tool in reserve is a good strategic move in keeping students interested and engaged.