Tag Archives: technology

Mini-Epic Fails with Technology

In the classroom, I feel like I have been having a streak of bad luck.  Things are constantly going wrong.  Recently I think I even muttered the words, “I’m done using these iPads!” and “I hate technology!”

Neither of these statements is true, but for a teacher who relies on and incorporates technology into lessons on a daily basis, I have definitely been frustrated.

I am going to preface this by saying I do test the technology in various ways before each lesson to make sure everything is a go.

However, I have had several issues in the past weeks when it comes to technology.

First of all, my teacher workstation computer crashes constantly due to old age. I’m “due for a new computer NEXT year.” That’s great news and all, but we have over 100 days of school left. I can’t wait that long!! The tech department has already wiped my computer clean and I’ve started from scratch. It helped for about a week.

The two programs I use the most are unreliable. SMART Notebook crashes every single day.  I am constantly trying to recover the lost files. Chrome also has a tendency to crash at least twice a week.

My projector bulb is growing dimmer and dimmer by the day, but hasn’t blown yet. With a price tag of $300…I’m still waiting for it to die so they will replace it. Right now it is pointless to use my AppleTV because you can’t even see what’s projected on the board.

The next issue is a blessing and curse. (Isn’t all technology really?) The iPads are awesome  and I like to use them every single day, but there is always some catch. I have learned to run through my lessons every time I plan something new. However, there is always something I overlook or don’t realize. Especially if it requires the students to use their own accounts. Filters, privacy, logins….all issues I can’t always see coming.

Along those same lines, some of the apps are fussy too.  I was all excited to use Subtext a few weeks ago.  I really wanted to use the text-to-speech feature and have the kids tag their evidence to focus questions.  I set it up at home on my iPad and ran through it with Ian on a school-issued iPad.

Then I went to class….the students logged in with their student account to access the article and assignment.  And then they had to “Ask the teacher to upgrade to the Premium account to access the text-to-speech feature for students.”  Not once during my run-through did that important piece of information come up. Grrrrr……

My class has grown in size.  I had two new students enroll at the start of the nine weeks and now with 10 students and 6 iPads (plus my own), the almost one-to-one thing I had going is not possible.  This is a big adjustment for my original class.    As a class, we were definitely spoiled during the first nine weeks.

As someone who obviously loves technology and wants to incorporate it as much as possible in her teaching, I am not sure how to handle all of this aggravation. Is it worth it to plan lessons with technology? Am I relying on it too much?   Every day I feel like I am wasting my students time or not teaching the lesson effectively.  I sometimes think, “What if I was being observed?  How horrible would this look?” 

Like my dad (who just recently gave up his flip-phone) always says, “Technology is great…when it works.”

I don’t think my expectations are too high. I don’t think I am using “too much” technology. I don’t want to be limited or prevented from teaching like I want to teach.  I am not sure how to work around these issues. It’s almost become a running gag in my classroom, the kids noting my “epic fails.”  I try to laugh it off and act like it’s funny…how the computer is messing with me or how the SMART board is smarter than I am.  Inside, I’m not laughing.

What suggestions do you have?
How do you handle on-the-spot tech disasters?
Would my problems keep you from incorporating the technology?

The Possibility of iPads Next Fall

This week I should find out if my friend and I are getting iPads for our Resource Rooms.

We wrote the grant over Spring Break and submitted it to our Tech Department the morning the email came out announcing it.

We quickly received a really nice email from the person in charge, thanking us for our application. But you know how the mind plays tricks on you….”Did she thank us for applying, but…..?” or “Did she really like our applications that much?”

One minute we are like, “We are so gonna get them!” and then we are like, “We better get them!” and then “We are never getting them.”

A few years ago, we wrote a grant together to get  a Senteo Response System (and we got it!).  The year before that, I wrote a grant for a SMARTBoard and document camera. (I was initially denied but then the special education department had some extra money.)

But iPads….they are a hot item right now. Everyone wants them. And there is only so much money in the budget…and we’ve already  received a grant. We can’t expect to get them all.

I think we had pretty valid points and I think we could do amazing things with 6 iPads.

I have the RR students 1st and 2nd period for Language Arts and then they go to RR Math during 3rd and 4th.  At the most, we will have 10 students on our roster.

Why do I think we should receive a grant?

Here are a few excerpts from our application:

-The addition of iPads will allow students in the resource room setting and the inclusion classroom to receive instruction which will be interactive, engaging, and individualized for their particular learning needs.  By combining tablet technology, students will be able to view instructional materials firsthand and in real-time.

-As we each teach multi-grade level resource rooms, it is important that we have the resources available to differentiate their instruction as their IEP calls for.  For example, reading levels this year range from non-reader to 7th grade.  In Math, students’ ability levels range from 1st grade to 6th grade.

-Incorporating iPads into the classroom will allow us to break students into appropriate groups for specific skills. While the teacher is working with one ability/grade level, the others will be directed to appropriate activities using the technology.  With so many apps and programs designed to keep record of student progress, this will allow us to receive immediate feedback and easily plan individualized instruction. Core Math, which is fully compatible with Common Core Standards, is able to track progress for 50 students.  Khan Academy would allow similar progress monitoring and prescriptive teaching.  DropBox will allow us to create individual folders for each student with appropriate reading selections and spelling activities.  Vocabulary and spelling skills can be individualized on Spelling City.

-This new technology will be especially beneficial as our math and language arts series are available online. As the instructors, we will be able to direct students’ attention to particular features of the text, highlight important details, and demonstrate strategies for improving reading comprehension and basic math skills.

-As inclusion teachers, we would be able to provide access to our other IEP students across the curriculum with the teachers we co-teach with. We could break the class into small groups and provide direct instruction in the general education classroom and then design activities for small groups on the iPads.

-One of the most exciting capabilities of this technology is that students will receive immediate feedback from apps and internet web site as to their progress.  With programs such as DropBox and Nearpod students can easily share their work with the teacher and their classmates.  Students working together in small groups will be able to brainstorm ideas, complete graphic organizers, develop a plan to solve a problem, or explain a process and then bring the team’s ideas to the attention of the teacher which will allow for corrective feedback.  Many students are motivated by this type of technology.   We are interested in the possibility of using the tablet and its technology to create a small-scale in-class version of a flipped classroom.  While some students are receiving direct instruction, others will be front-loaded with information on the next lesson.

Although we’ve only been out of school for a week, I will admit, I’m already in the planning stages for next fall.  A tiny part of me is holding out on the hope that iPad activities will fill one column of my lesson plans.  As I sit and create lessons for the first few stories, I keep asking myself, “How would this work on the iPad? What apps would work in place of this?”

And then I think….”If I don’t get the iPads…..”

If I don’t get them, I will regain three days of my summer vacation back, because anyone who receives a grant has to attend a 3 day training in either June or July.

I am ready to just find out either way.

Have you ever written a grant?

What was it for?

How did it change your classroom?

Share your story in the comments!

Technology Goals for 2013

My Technology Goals for 2013

    1. Continue blogging as way to share my ideas and to learn from others. (Never underestimate the value of reading others’ candid thoughts and every day ramblings.)
    2. Become more active on Twitter. (I believe I could learn at least twice as much in two hours on Twitter as I could in a two-hour inservice.)
    3. Secure iPads or iPad Minis with a grant through my district. (10 would be ideal but I would settle for 5.)
    4. Practice more with Prezi. (I’d like to get all of my figurative language lessons into Prezi.)
    5. Learn how to use an animation app like Go!Animate. (I will turn to TweedleDee for a tutorial.)

What are you technology goals? What should I add to my list? Comment at the link above to share your thoughts.

Are You Smarter Than Your SMARTBoard?

When I first started teaching I used chalkboards.

Ancient artifact? True story… I had sticks of this chalk out on student desks one day and one boy picked it up, rolled it between his fingers, and asked, “WHAT IS THIS??”

In 2005, I spent my PTG money on a 3 x 5 dry erase board that the custodian installed overtop of a portion of my chalk board. It was a small space but I loved using colored markers to teach 6th grade math.

In 2007, I was transferred to a new position at the high school and when I walked into my classroom that August there was a giant box. Inside, was something I’d seen in a few classrooms, but never touched….something that would change the way I taught, the way my students learned, and the way I learned from my students. I was the proud new owner of SMART Board! The man who I was replacing had written a grant in the spring, received the SMART Board, and then took a new job in another district. Talk about luck!

As a tutor for the state graduation test and at-risk students, I had a lot of flexibility with my teaching which meant I had a lot of time to experiment. Working with only a few students each period they were more happy to show me how to use it.

In addition to my helpful 10th and 11th graders, I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to use my SMART Board. There are dozens of activities in the Lesson Activity Toolkit in the Gallery. It was a little overwhelming at first and then I decided to go through the sample activities one at a time, try them out as a “student”, and figure out how they were made. I then created a similar page with my content. If you are a hands-on learner like me this is probably a good route to go.

If you are a visual or auditory learner and like tutorials, I have since found that there are now video links to tutorials on most of the examples as well as a huge help menu in the Lesson Activity Toolkit. (My how times have changed!)

I think the easiest way to explain how to find your way around the Lesson Activity Toolkit is to provide these screenshots:

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There are 74 examples for you to go through. Start today and you could and have a whole arsenal of ideas for fall.

Coming Soon to a Classroom Near You

This weekend, the long-awaited film, The Avengers, opens in theaters.  Just like the heroes of this movie, every teacher has a personal talent or strength (or two.)

These are a few of the Super Teachers I could see saving the world (if they worked together!):

Captain Creativity – Provides unique learning opportunities and lives “Outside the Box”

Leader Maximus – A true leader who steps up at the first sign of trouble

Organized Storm – Schedules, classroom, documentation, you name it – This super hero is all about details!

Adaptable Prime – Adapts to change right before your eyes

Master Tech – Solves any technology problem and uses multiple forms of technology on a daily basis

Flexible Phantom – Works around any obstacle – physical or mental

Extreme Patience – No one (co-worker or student) can get under the tough skin of this super hero

Content King – Knows the content standards inside and out, forward and backward

Artwork by my 12-year-old daughter, MJ

If you were a super  hero, who would you be?

What is your talent?

How would you share it with the world?

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

I have been a teacher for 16 years and it is likely I am not even halfway thru my career. I have a long way to go, lots of experience, many ideas, and dreams I have not yet pursued.

As a little girl I always dreamed of being a teacher. I had other “dream jobs too…. I wanted to be a writer and a photographer. I never felt like it was possible to do anything with these dreams.

Until now.

Why now?

Well, there are a few things you should know about me. I love teaching, reading, writing, and learning. I love talking and sharing. I love technology, designing materials, figuring out what “works”, making connections with kids, and helping kids make connections.

At this point in my life, it just makes sense to combine my dreams, my passions, and my talents. I hope to create a blog that will serve as a way to motivate myself to keep on learning, inspire others in their teaching, and benefit the students in my future….and in yours.

I am determined to do this. Failure is not an option (Thanks A.H.!)

I hope that you will come back often to see how I develop this blog. I will need your help ~ your contributions, comments, questions, thoughts, and ideas ~ to get things rolling.

Everyone has a dream. What is your dream?

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Self-made poster hanging in my classroom. I knew it was a keeper when I saw it doodled on an at-risk student’s binder.

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