Monday, May 2, 2011

Technology I Use Everyday as an Educator

Recently, a colleague asked me what technology I use each day and how does it help me or my students. So, here is my answer: (all of them are free)

1. Email - I use email for communication. All of my students have my school email address, and I give it out to parents also. I can send messages to my students, communicate with parents, and communicate with other educators. You can get a free email account from Google.

2. Evernote - I use Evernote as a note taking system. I have my notes organized by topic. I have reference notes, lesson plans, tech tips, and much more on here. What I really love, is that I can access my notes from any internet enabled computer or cell phone. I also like the ability to "clip" web sites into a note in Evernote. What's great, is that hyperlinks on the web page are kept when clipped into Evernote. You can also attach files to your notes. Free accounts can only attach images (JPEG/PNG/GIF), audio (MP3, WAV, AMR), PDF, and digital ink files. I try to convert most of my files to PDF anyway for cross-platform support. (Here is some info on how to create PDF files for free on your computer, or online. ) You can also share notes and notebooks with others.

3. Google - I use Google for email, calendar, tasks, blogs, websites, and more. iGoogle - I use iGoogle as my start page to keep myself organized. With one glance, I can see my task list, schedule (calendar), bookmarks, time/date, Gmail, RSS feeds and more. I can also access my Google Docs from this page. For more on iGoogle, go HERE. 

4. Online Gradebook - our school system uses PowerTeacher so we have a built in gradebook with it. But, there is a great web-based, free gradebook for teachers to use:
 Engrade - Engrade is a free online gradebook for teachers. I have all of my classes listed here and each student is given an access code so that they can see their grades any time they want. I also give access codes to the parents so that they always know how their student is doing. It is accessable from any web enabled computer and you can generate multiple reports and export the data if needed.

5a. Sugarsync - Sugarsync is an online system that backs up your files and allows you to access them from any web enabled computer or smart phone. There is a free, 2GB capacity account available. What is really great is that it keeps your files in sync among multiple computers. Make a change to a file on computer A, and it is automatically uploaded and sync'd with their servers and any other computers you have specified. You can even open/edit a file directly from their server and it will automatically sync the changes you make. I keep my school files on here so that I can work on them and access them at home and on any computer at school.

5b. Dropbox is a service that allows you to sync your files on your computer with their system as a backup. This also allows you to access the files anywhere. You can also sync the files across multiple computers. This means that you have automatic backup of your files and 24/7 access to your files. I have it set up to sync a folder on my home computer and school computer so I don't have to worry about having multiple versions or forgetting a flash drive.

There are also Dropbox apps for iPhone, Android, iPad, Blackberry and HP/Palm webOS, but you can also access the mobile site from any web-enabled phone. Imagine being able to access all of your files on your smartphone!

6. Blogger - Blogger is a free blogging tool from Google. I use it for this blog, as well as for a blog for each of my classes. These class blogs are a great resource for my students. I have important links on the side and then I post what we are doing in class, links for extra help, and more on there. My students have all subscribed to the blogs via email, so they get an email whenever I make a new post on the blog. Students can also hold discussions on the blog.

7. Google Sites - I use Google sites to create a free website for my classes. I have one website that I use for all of my clases - On the site I have class rules, reference information, links, and files from class (presentations, handouts, etc.). I also have sections for new teachers and about educational technology.

8. Hardware: I have a teacher station computer in my classroom, along with 8 student desktop computers. I have a printer for the student computers and a printer for my computer. I also have an LCD projector connected to my computer, and a VCR and DVD player connected to the projector. I also use a Keyspan remote to wirelessly control my computer from anywhere in the room. Auxillary speakers are also a must.

I can project videos, presentations and demonstrations using the projector. The students use the computers during labs, to do online-virtual labs and simulations, to do research, and to work on projects for class. 

9. I use a Palm Pre+ smart phone to keep connected. I can access all of my files (and edit them), Google accounts, email, the web, and much more with it (it even makes phone calls).

10. Tweetdeck - I use Tweetdeck to keep up to date on news, events in education and to share resources and conversations with other educators in my Personal Learning Network.This is an invaluable resource for any educators. 

11. Discovery Education - Discovery Education has a huge amount of resources I use, from the DEN Blog Network to Streaming Videos, to STEM Resources. 

12. Other software: our school computers run Windows XP. I also use the following software on my school computer: Google Chrome web browserStardock Object Dock (a great dock to launch programs from), Picasa (photo organizing and editing), GDoc Backup (backup my Google Docs to the hard drive), PowerCalc (Microsoft Scientific/Graphing Calculator), OpenOffice (office suite) and CutePDF writer. All of this software is free.

I have also switched to using Aviary's clipping extension for Chrome to clip graphics from the internet and edit or modify them.

I start my day at home by checking email, calendar, and my lesson plans (on Evernote) for the day on my Palm Pre+ smartphone. Once at school, I start up my computer and launch Google Chrome Browser, which is where I do most of my work - accessing three different email accounts, the school student information system, my calendar, Evernote, blogs, Tweetdeck, Google Docs and iGoogle. I can do about 95% of what I need to do during the day in my web browser. This also allows me to use my Google Chrome CR-48 notebook computer for my daily tasks. My data is mostly online and the rest of my files are automatically synced and available anywhere through Dropbox and Sugarsync. 

So, you now know what I use for educational technology on a daily basis. There is much more that I use from time to time and I have a huge number of web sites that I use for information, reference, or with my students.

Please share your resources too.


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