Even in the Summer

Working overtime to bring you workable classroom technology for the upcoming school year.

GUEST COLUMN | by Danielle Hegedus

Around this time of year, educators undoubtedly begin hearing well-meaning comments from those outside of their field about how “lucky” they are to have the entire summer off! While they may smile good-naturedly at these comments, know that on the inside they are ready to yell, “Hardly!

Teachers and administrators are always working to move the curriculum beyond the textbook. 

Whichever way you classify it, be it “21st century classroom” or “blended learning,” the truth is that keeping up with new advances in technology and preparing students to succeed in a constantly changing, ever-globalized world is a 12-months a year, 24/7 job.

Teachers and administrators are always working — even in the summer — to move the curriculum beyond the textbook. This work is not just to prepare students for the high-tech workforce that they will eventually enter, but also to meet a growing demand for consumer-driven education.

Stepping away from hard and fast grade levels, more parents are demanding — and school systems are embracing — instruction and assessment based on individual competency.

This movement toward individualized education requires educators to meet students where they are in terms of skills and knowledge, and to develop a plan that is uniquely suited for their academic advancement.

Integrating technology into the classroom simply as an alternative to paper will no longer suffice. Educators have realized that as the demand for individualized education continues to grow, they must embrace technology to help them quickly and accurately assess a student’s performance — and just as quickly, utilize that information to adjust instruction accordingly.

Educators can also use technology to build a true partnership with parents — sharing real-time assessments of performance, and promptly intervening to support struggling students while further challenging thriving students.

Here are just a few resources that educators will be utilizing in their classrooms this upcoming fall:

CREDIT Raz KidsRaz-Kids. I spoke with a high school English teacher in North Carolina who has two young children at home and she raved about Raz-Kids. Her son, Jacob, is in the first grade and has become a more motivated, skilled, and confident reader by using this award-winning website. Designed for students in grades K-5, Raz-Kids offers over 400 e-books. These books are leveled, spanning 27 levels of difficulty.

As a student participates in various activities such as listening to a book, recording themselves reading, or taking a quiz on the material they have just read, two things happen: 1) teachers monitor the student’s individual progress to determine their specific instruction needs and 2) students monitor and celebrate their own improvement, earning incentives in the form of stars that enable them to personalize their Raz-Rocket or even build a robot on the site.

Teachers see Raz-Kids as a great tool to help bridge the gap between classroom learning and home, as students can also use the site’s apps on mobile devices 24-7. Almost three billion e-books have been read by 42,000 users of the site. Free webinars are offered to assist teachers in integrating Raz-Kids with the curriculum. https://www.raz-kids.com/  Via iTunes

CREDIT Dreambox imageDreambox was recommended to me by an elementary school teacher in Jacksonville, Florida. She likes that it helps her students understand math in context — mastering the concepts and not just memorizing isolated facts or methods — so that they can more easily build on their knowledge and advance to the next level. This software, designed for students in grades K-8, collects over 50,000 data points during just one hour of student use. This data allows the software to evaluate the strategies that students use to solve problems and immediately adjust the lesson to the appropriate level of difficulty.

Like Raz-Kids, Dreambox uses gaming fundamentals to motivate students to persist in their studies and reach new levels of success. The real time reporting feature allows educators to quickly intervene to support students who are struggling or who are unchallenged by the material so that they can achieve their personal best. The reporting feature also provides teachers with a detailed assessment that can easily be shared with parents. The DreamBox curriculum has alignments and reporting to show progress against CCSS, TEKS, SOL, WNCP, and Ontario Curriculum. There is an array of teacher tools that you can check out here: http://www.dreambox.com/teachertools. Via Pinterest

CREDIT TenMarksTenMarks is free for single grade usage (with limited features) for one year. Hint and video lessons are a popular feature with students, as well as the “amplifier” function that assists students in determining the root cause (be it a simple mistake or a misunderstanding of strategy) of incorrect problems. Automated interventions provide teachers with actionable results, such as analysis on the top three mistakes a student is making in their work, so that teachers can address specific problem areas. Via iTunes

CREDIT GoNoodleGoNoodle is geared toward improving student behavior and the overall mood of the classroom so that students are prepared to learn. Fun “brain breaks” help get students physically moving and engaged in learning. GoNoodle features a wide variety of games that can help calm students down or make them more alert. Many teachers (beyond the testimonials on the gonoodle.com website) claim that GoNoodle has been especially an effective tool for students with severe behavior, attention and sensory processing issues.

CREDIT Google DriveGoogle Drive. Every middle school to high school teacher that I spoke to mentioned that they had their students using Google Drive. English teachers appreciated the opportunity to make the writing process more collaborative, as Google Drive allows teachers (and even peers) to offer feedback throughout the writing process. Teachers also appreciated the organization and project management skills that Google Drive was helping their students to develop. Students are also using Google Drive to take notes digitally and create multimedia presentations.

CREDIT Google Art ProjectGoogle Art Project was also a standout web-based service for educators feeling the brunt of budget cuts for field trips. Currently, students can view 150 collections from 40 countries choosing to either “view artwork” or “take a 365 tour” of the museum. Amit Sood, the creator of the project, delivers a great TED talk on this effort to make the world’s greatest museums more accessible.

Danielle Hegedus is an Atlanta-based writer who works in the nonprofit sector, is interested in education and technology issues and challenges, and writes for Modernize.com.

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