Classroom Technology Wish List: 101 Ways to Bring Technology into the Classroom

Note: This is a living document. This list was last updated on Jul 4, 2012. How do you use technology in your classroom? Leave a comment below.

Sure, it’s summer time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few ideas brewing on the back burner. Here are some technology things that you could do with your students. Not everything may be feasible (i.e. cost factors) or appropriate (i.e. security or privacy issues):

  • some of the things we’re already doing,
  • some of the things we’re thinking of doing, and,
  • some of the things are simply wishful thinking, but great ideas have to start somewhere…

Some of the things listed could be considered authentic ways to use technology in the classroom (i.e. using smart boards as a teaching tool), where as other ideas might be considered using technology for technology’s sake (i.e. learning HTML to explore web design).

How do you integrate technology into the curriculum? Do you have any ideas to add to the list? (It’s a work in progress. Yes, we know there aren’t 101 things on the list… yet.)

Class Set of Laptops

  1. Get a company to donate a class set of laptops when they upgrade their equipment. (The company can receive a charitable donation tax-credit.)
  2. Set up a wi-fi hotspot in your classroom so that students can blog online during independent reading and writing workshops.
  3. Purchase digital copies of textbooks to have a paperless classroom. Use text-reading software (i.e. Kurzweil) to highlight and take notes in the textbook.
  4. Get an e-Reader, Kindle, Kobo, iPad or netbook into the hands of your students so they can read ebooks or online texts.

Non-Traditional Reading and Writing

 

  • Use bulletin board software to create online literature circles to engage your reluctant readers.
  • Teach students the differences between formal, informal, and colloquial language and explore text messaging, chat rooms, and msn-speak as forms of colloquial language.
  • Evaluate the evolving nature of language and develop word-attack skills by examining how words get accepted into everyday language (or the dictionary). For example, Google is now a commonly used noun and verb.
  • Use text-reading software (i.e. Kurzweil) to allow students to access difficult texts.
  • Use dynamic graphic organizer software (i.e Inspiration) to brainstorm ideas and show how to create outlines for writing.
  • Use blogs, website articles, webzines, online graphic novels, wikipedia, etc as sources of high-interest, non-traditional literacy texts.
  • Use blogs as a medium for students to post drafts and get peer feedback for the revising and editing stages of the writing process.
  • Use Google Docs to demonstrate the writing process and as a way to monitor students as they edit and revise. (Thanks KC for adding this idea to the list!)
  • Use the research tools in Google Docs to quickly look up facts without leaving your paper. (Note: you’ll need extra lessons to train students not to simply copy-and-paste and plagiarize the internet.)
  • Go paperless – Mark student work online. Students share their work with you. You copy and paste a rubric at the bottom, highlight relevant sections, and provide feedback. We copy-and-paste comments from a comment bank to help speed up the process. (Having said that, it can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes per student to mark.)
  • Create a “good stuff to read” website where your students could post some of their favourite texts (either links to website articles or names of books) and other students could then vote on whether they liked the recommendation. You could then sort the list of student recommended books so that students could read the best stuff first.

Blogging

  • Have students set up personal blogs as a medium to publish their writing portfolios.
  • Explore how Google is a popularity contest. Publish work in an e-zine article directory to understand how to build inbound links. Post comments on other blogs to build inbound links.
  • Publish work onto article directories to help students understand that anyone can post content online. They need to be critical when finding information online.
  • Explore copyright issues. Publish work in a blog or an e-zine article directory will inevitably end up with your work scraped onto another blog without proper attribution. Explore how that feels and the ethics of using other people’s content without consent.
  • Have your students take turns moderating the comments received on a blog. Explore what spam is and how spam filters work.

Computer Safety

  • Discuss cyber-bullying: ways to protect yourself, how to respond when it happens, and how to avoid accidentally cyber-bullying when blogging.
  • Explore computer safety: password strength, viruses, trojans, phishing, etc.
  • Learn about online dangers and ways to protect yourself.

Classroom Website

Making Money Online

  • Introduce students to the business of making money on the internet. Teach a unit on Making Money Online.
  • Explore advertising online – how it works.
  • Fund raise by selling stuff on e-bay.
  • Sell products using affiliate marketing.
  • Use online banking to explore how compound interest works.

GPS and Mapping Technology

  • Geo-cache with your students.
  • Use GPS technology or mapping software (i.e. Google Earth) in math class to construct larger geometric shapes. (i.e. construct a circle that has a radius of 5 city blocks.)
  • Apply GPS technology or mapping software in Geography.
  • Create a structure that can be seen on Google Earth
  • Use online mapping tools (i.e. http://www.mapmyrun.com/) to show students visually where they will be going for their fieldtrips.

The Internet as a Global Village / Community

  • Find a class to pen-pal with and correspond using blogs, email, or IRC chat rooms.
  • Use a voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) service like Skype to make long-distance phone calls to overseas pen pals. (i.e. set up a penpal partnership with a school in a developing country)
  • Use a webcam and VOIP to make video calls with a long-distance pen pal in a foreign country
  • Create a wiki so students understand how collaborative spaces like wikipedia work.
  • Use a wiki for students to synthesize and evaluate knowledge gained in a content-subject like History or Geography. They can track how their understanding of concepts grow. Demonstrate how our understanding of a subject-specific topic evolves over time (i.e. a dynamic and digital KWL chart)
  • Publish student work in English and in their first language online so that relatives overseas can celebrate in their success.
  • Create a pen-pal site for classroom teachers to be able to have their students blog on other classroom blogs around the world. You could search the database based by grade or geographic region.
  • French immersion students can post work in French and translate into English to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of online translation services.
  • Investigate the role social networks are playing in changing the way the world communicates.
  • Examine how Santa Claus has evolved as our technology has evolved. Track Santa using social networks and Google Earth.

Technology as a Teaching Tool

Music and Technology

  • Buy songs (i.e. itunes) and allow students to DJ their own school dances.
  • Use DJ software to allow students to explore basic DJ skills, including beat matching, creating loops, and mixing.
  • Critically examine popular music to determine whether mainstream music is appropriate at a school dance (i.e. Soulja Boy – Crank that)
  • Compose your own ring-tones / mp3s in music class.
  • Create your own pod-casts. Students can use free sound-editing software (i.e. audacity) to mix in free sound effects (i.e. ljudo.com or freeplaymusic.com) with their digital recordings of their voices.

Class Projects

  • Send an object around the world and invite people who find the object to leave a message online in the classroom blog.
  • Test out the theory of six-degrees of separation using email. Students are trying to get an email to a specific person in another country. They send off the email explaining the activity to a friend or connection that they feel is in a good position to send it off towards the target. See how many people the email goes through before it arrives to the target person.
  • Explore the video making process: scripts, recording, editing, post-production
  • Explore youtube as a medium to publish content.
  • Experiment with claymation and stop-motion photography to make short films.

Physical Education / Daily Physical Activity (DPA) and Technology

  • Use active video games (dance dance revolution, wii fit) as a means of combining technology with daily physical activity.
  • Use online GPS mapping tools (i.e. http://www.mapmyrun.com/) to map out distances for your cross-country team.
  • Use a GPS (i.e. Garmin ForeRunner) to measure speed during track and field events.

iPad in the Classroom

  • Get a class set of iPads for the classroom. (Before you say it’ll never happen, a school district in Maine is spending $200,000 to get 300 Kindergarten students iPad 2s for the classroom.)
  • Use Google Docs on the iPad to take notes. You can be productive within seconds (compared to minutes to log in on a netbook.)
  • Read novels or newspapers using various news apps (i.e. CNN, Globe and Mail,
  • Use AudioNote to allow students to take audio recordings of your classes. As you type notes, the words sync to the appropriate parts of your audio recording. In other words, if you can’t remember exactly what the teacher said, click the word and you can hear that part of the lecture. (To be honest, this is probably more useful at the post-secondary level. Most teachers (and parents) would probably be concerned that the class was being recorded.)

Assistive Technology

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Noah May 13, 2011, 11:24 PM

    Very good article! I wish to add more tech to our school and this gave me some very good points that I might use in my argument!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Bobby Strauss July 7, 2011, 2:37 AM

    Informative article! This will be a great innovation in the school if implemented. It gives the kids opportunity to be more engaged in our ever evolving technology. I would also commend on teaching a unit on how to make money online since that is a very lucrative business nowadays.

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology July 8, 2011, 8:54 PM

      Hey Bobby, you’re right. There are a lot of potential media literacy and curriculum links in a unit on making money online. One of the Nelson Intermediate textbooks talks about cyber sense, but to have students apply these ideas and critical thinking would be taking the lesson to the next level.

      Reply
  • Tracey September 21, 2011, 10:19 PM

    Thank you for jump starting my thinking about incorporating google doc. into my writing block with the students. We are currently using word and the track changes tool to help us edit and revise our work with peers but google docs might be a new way to enhance our writing and keep my students engaged and growing as members and leaders of the technology age.

    One of my favorite tools to use with intermediate elementary school students is edublog. We set up the classroom in edublog – super easy to do- and then have the students go to the computer lab where we demonstrate how a blog works and a codes of conduct. Then we let them log in and respond to the first blog posting that we(teachers) have set up. Typically we do this in reading but it would work after a science demonstration, or to explain the solution to a math problem. Much like discussions in online classes, we tell the students that they must post a blog response and then respond to two peers responses. Before we know it, the kids are writing in response to reading, math, and science and are excited to do it. This program is particularly good and endorsed by our school system because it is not public; so, people without the log in cannot search it on the internet and join in the conversation. It also keeps our students identities anonymous and helps students learn safe internet skills while blogging. The kids, especially the older elementary school kids, love this. Most of these students want to have a facebook account but aren’t allowed, rightfully so due to their age. This lets them taste something similar, makes them feel important/ older, but keeps them safe! It is soooo motivating! Try it out.

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology September 24, 2011, 8:53 PM

      Hi Tracey – blogging in the classroom is a great tool to get students engaged. Our students have been doing it for a number of years now. Edublogs (and WordPress, the open-source software behind it) is great, especially if you have a private network only accessible by your students and parents. We actually use our own installation of WordPress for our class and student blogs so that we can customize the site for our needs. (For example, we use the WP Plagiarism Pal plugin to make it easier for students and teachers to google search work handed in by students to see if it’s been copied from the internet.) We also have installed a Remove Comment Flood plugin to prevent students from seeing that “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down” message.

      Your comment about Facebook is interesting. Although the terms of service explicitly state that you have to be at least 13 years old, I’d guess that a significant number of 12 year old students have accounts. I wonder how many of your students who “aren’t allowed” to have one, actually have one under a false date of birth.

      Reply
  • Tracey September 24, 2011, 9:31 PM

    Thanks so much for adding new information for me to think about when using blogs with our elementary students. The concept of comment flooding is interesting, especially since more and more of our 5th graders have cell phones and consider blogging to be like texting. We are really working on what is expected and acceptable without “stifling” their interest. At first, texting like responses was what we received as posts and were inundated with “comment flooding”. Since we moderate each blog post before it is posted or sent back for reworking, this became a time management issue for us as teachers. After several blog posts being sent back and direct modeling and instruction, our students are much better at writing appropriate responses.
    I am going to investigate if our edublog subscription has an application like the WordPress Plagiarism Pal plug-in you mentioned. It would be helpful for our teachers as well and would help our students learn the importance of scholarly writing without plagiarism. If not, I will talk with our IT department to see how involved it would be to begin using WordPress. Is WordPress a comparable alternative (expense wise) to the edublog we currently use (which is the free version)? Do you have any suggestions or advice with getting this started or using this program?

    As for facebook, we have actually “reported” several students who are under the age stated in the terms of service who were portraying themselves to be high school aged students. It was actually scary to read and review their posts. When we shared this information with parents, some where shocked and embarrased while others shared that they were aware and had allowed them to put a different birthdate so that they could be a member of facebook.

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology October 8, 2011, 12:11 AM

      Hi Tracey,

      Edublogs.org, WordPress.com, and running your own self-hosted WordPress site amounts to the same thing: you’re using the free open-source WordPress software that you can download from WordPress.org. The only difference is who is powering the server hardware behind the site, who makes sure things are running smoothly (behind the scenes) and what plugins / customizations you have installed. A few colleagues have been asking about the different types of WordPress so I wrote this article for them: http://wordpress.educircles.org/2011/02/20/how-to-create-a-class-website-student-blog-or-school-edublog/

      If you have an IT department that manages your school websites off its own servers, then they may be willing to install Wordpress software for you. (The software itself is free, but you may need to pay for a web host if your school doesn’t have its own servers.) The challenge is making sure your server is powerful enough to handle a class of students logging in and posting at the same time. (Nothing is worse than hearing students comment about how slow the site is…) Initially, I paid $7 per month for a shared hosting plan (with BlueHost) – great for a class website for parents, but found that it didn’t deal well with 30 students commenting at the same time. I now pay $20 per month for a cloud hosting plan to run my network of student blogs. (Actually, I pay $100+ per month because there’s I’ve expanded what I do to allow my colleagues to use my educircles network as well.)

      If you do end up running your own self-hosted wordpress site, then you may want to check out some of the customizations we make for our class bloggng network. WordPress is great… but it can be better customized for the classroom.

      I found that when I made the switch from moderating every single comment that went online… to allowing students to publish comments / posts directly to the site (but use a moderation plugin to allow students to report inappropriate content)… it really opened up the online conversation because the teachers were no longer the bottleneck to the flow of ideas. In terms of security, if you run a private network, then comments / posts aren’t visible to people outside of your classroom community. Also, if students have to log in, then their name gets tied to every post and comment and I’ve found relatively few issues. Certainly at the beginning, it’s a good idea to train students on how to use appropriate English (and not txting slang), but if students can edit their own comments and posts, then you can also do that training on-the-fly as student posts appear on the site.

      I guess it depends on how much control you want to have over the content that appears on your sites. (You could also change your discussion settings on the comments so that new commenters need to be approved by a teacher, but students who have already had one comment approved can have their next comments published live immediately without going into the moderation queue.)

      Thanks for sharing your facebook experiences… did you find that facebook shut down the underage accounts, or was it more the embarrased parents who pulled those sites down. We’ve chatted a little about this topic at school and we’ve often wondered how proactive facebook is at closing these accounts.

      Reply
  • Carrynotes December 20, 2011, 8:03 AM

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    Reply
  • Beth September 11, 2012, 9:35 AM

    You have some great ideas for teachers of all levels of expertise and comfort. I would like to mention a couple of things the teachers at my school use.

    First, Edmodo is a web site that is kind of like “Facebook” for education…teachers create “classes” and send a code to the students so they can “join” that class. Teachers have the ability to let students interact by sending messages on the page or make it read it only, post documents for students and accept documents from students, and a myriad of other possibilities.

    Second, the math department is using a LiveScribe pen that allows them to record what they are writing and saying using a pen device. The LiveScribe pen stores the file which can be uploaded to the computer as a “video” that can be posted on the class web site for students who missed an assignment or a day of class discussion.

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology September 27, 2012, 11:52 PM

      Hi Beth – thanks for the feedback. A few teachers at my school use Edmodo. I’ve created an account, but I haven’t really played around with it that much. I think it’s because Google Docs lets me post documents for students and receive documents and Google does simultaneous collaboration really well. I might have a second look at Edmodo again.

      LiveScribe sounds cool. I’ve heard about it and seen their website (http://www.livescribe.com/) but you’re the first person that I know of where they’re actually using it in the classroom. It reminds me of the audionote ipad app which does a similar thing (you write or type and the iPad app records what you say and draw at the same time.) A little like Doodlecast Pro or Doodlecast for Kids. Of course, the benefit to LiveScribe is that you’re not limited to your iPad screen. Maybe my next toy will be a LiveScribe pen.

      Thanks for sharing the ideas!

      Reply

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