Technology Integration

Tech is everywhere. We engage with technology everyday as consumers, whether by using our an app on our phone or on the job. It is clear this is the 21st Century. Just how can technology benefit schools, students and educators?

Education technology is a wonderful thing, it can open up a whole new world to students who live in extremely rural areas (like I do) and it allows them to broaden their experiences when life is not limited by locale. 12158666264_61c44094fa This can be done via virtual tours such as this one of the Louvre or via linking classrooms via video conferencing. Students in smaller schools may also be able to access classes that otherwise might not be offered.

Photo Credit: Wayne Stadler Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Another way that education technology is a wonderful thing is that teachers can utilize technology to encourage student voice and promote democracy in the classroom. Students who are introverts can be encouraged to use their voice via technologies such as Flipgrid or Mentimeter or through a platform such as blogging or Twitter where they might be more comfortable rather than speaking in front of classmates. Students can also give teachers feedback on lessons, topics and classroom activities. And for other students, technology can provide a real audience for them to share their ideas and practice their writing skills. Blog platforms such as Edublogs can provide a safe environment in which these students can blog about topics and hone their writing skills with real-life applications.

Technology can also streamline instruction. To quote Alec Couros, “if you can google it, why teach it?” Instead of focusing on information overload, teachers can focus on teaching skills such as writing, digital citizenship, branding and other 21st Century skills that may help them in college and career readiness. Our students should be becoming critical thinkers, engaged in asking questions and making their world a better place instead of focusing solely on the memorization of dates and names that they might forget after the next test (dates and names are important, but it shouldn’t be the only thing on our students’ minds).

We can all agree that technology is a good thing, however; there are a few things to consider before we jump in feet first. We must consider student access to devices if our classroom is “bring your own device,” some students cannot afford a smart phone or tablet or computer and making your classroom BYOD might create some issues.


How much is too much? Can too much technology be a bad thing? According to Science Daily, writing notes by hand might make learning easier and the information might be absorbed better than if those notes were typed. We as educators need to find a balance between technology and regular classroom instruction.

Photo Credit: DawMatt Flickr via Compfight cc

We should seek to pick and choose types of technology that fit our classroom and school environments instead going overboard and adopting things wholesale. What works in one classroom may not work in another. This is especially true right now when many educators and administrators are concerned over budget cuts and what kind of impact those budget cuts might have upon our schools.

Overall, there are many advantages to integrating technology into our classrooms, but there are many things to consider before we jump in feet first. Technology integration should be smooth with students in mind.


Flipping for Flipgrid

I decided to explore Flipgrid as a classroom tool. Flipgrid is an edtech tool that allows students to respond to a teacher-posted topic or question. Student videos can get likes and responses and teachers can post their own responses to student videos.

I love the idea of Flipgrid! As a social studies teacher, I really believe in promoting democracy in the classroom. Encouraging student voice leads to student involvement and student involvement can evolve to community participation and active citizens. This tool allows students to develop their own voice via video and respond to their peers. This allows even students who may be quiet in “RL” an outlet for discussion. I might be able to hear a voice that might otherwise be drowned out in the usual hustle and bustle of a regular classroom.

I tried the free version, since I’m still subbing and don’t have a classroom of my own (yet!). The free version allows an educator one grid, unlimited topics, unlimited number of students, and unlimited responses in addition to a free app. The non-free subscription has more handy dandy tools and the ability to embed a grid or topic to a website or blog (like this one!) and I could see myself upgrading eventually.

Let me get down to the nitty-gritty:


  • allows for equal student voice with created video responses
  • helps create and supplement class discussion
  • Teachers can moderate and response to student videos
  • Has privacy controls that can be tweaked by the teacher


  • Student created video responses are short (in the free version, only about 1:30 long)
  • There’s a bit of a learning curve to set up, but now that I’ve played with it, its pretty easy to to set and moderate.
  • Requires app for student devices such as tablets and phones which might be difficult for some students (sometimes storage space is a hot commodity!).

Application ideas:

  • Great tool for a flipped classroom or a classroom oriented around discussion
  • Encouragement of student voice and classroom discussion of ideas
  • Tool that students can access at home or when traveling


Blogging in the Classroom

So Skylar and I decided to create videos using Flipgrid for our conversation regarding blogging in the classroom.
I played a concerned parent and the points of my video are:

  1. student privacy- Is my child going to be exposed to potential predators?
  2. The idea that what my child writes could have potential to hurt them in the long run (think about Justine Sacco and the backlash from one Tweet)
  3. Is blogging really necessary? Is this vital to my child’s education or is it just a fad? Is the instructor going to have enough time and energy to devote to overseeing students when they blog.

Skylar responded to my video! It is so cool to see different videos on a topic. I just wish those videos were longer than a 1:30! I was in a room that wasn’t very quiet with no headphones and so I love the idea that Flipgrid makes a transcript of every response! The transcript may be inaccurate thanks to developing technology but I’d like to thank IBM Watson for trying his best anyway!

isam just responding to your post about blocking ends at the classroom and as a parent myself I think you know it it’s natural for us to to be concerned about a child and especially you know with the stories of Amanda Todd or just you stay cool you know about about how we’re leaving you know it to doodles like Frank and I think that as a teacher privacy privacy settings and controls are greater importance we must be careful when choosing our privacy options especially for how great you know when having our students while you were at different assignments or you know I am I think when introducing flocking to my students that it’s definitely a a great opportunity to first educate them on digital identity you know discussing online safety and privacy with students as well as discussing arm digital footprint that you may be creating I also think that having the parents involved will be an important step as well you know to student success for a blogging perhaps having the parent teacher interaction will help motivate the students learn more I’d definitely think that there’s a lot of positives to that as well that can come from blogging inside the class

In addition to the points that Skylar made in her video response, I wanted to add a few things. Blogging and the creation of a digital portfolio can add so much to a student’s education and set them up for success after high school (whether it be college readiness or career readiness). George Couros makes some valid points in his post 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog” I am going to re-hash most of what he said and add a bit of my own ideas into the mix as well.

Blogging can improve literacy with different mediums, making students better digital citizens while exposing them to various tools such a YouTube, Flickr and a host of others that can be related to blogging.

Blogging can also help with the development of student voice and encourage reflection about learning. With blogging, students can be a part of a community and through community (commenting, etc) there can be an exchange of ideas and those students can learn from each other. Students can initiate change through their blogging and the exchange of ideas. This shows them that they aren’t “just a kid” and that they can make their own environments better with their ideas (Like the creator of “Sit With Us”).

Blogging can also serve as an archive of student learning. All your posts are saved and organized by tag, category and date! They can see how far they’ve come from grade 9, or see what they learned in grade 10 science; it is all there on their own page! I kinda wished I had an archive like that off my classes from university or even high school! This leads us to the development of a positive digital footprint for our students. Let’s create one before someone else does it for us. Let’s fill the web with positive stuff instead of negative.

I also think blogging in the classroom could be a great set up for teaching our students 21st Century skills for both career and college readiness. Students learn:

  1. About tagging and using categories- for post viewing ease and webpage organization
  2. Development of networks (like my PLN on Twitter or my network of fellow “hipsters” who struggle with FAI and labral tears of the hip)
  3. Résumé building, or using their blog webpage as a résumé where they can show off their skills.
  4. Skill ownership and the importance of communication. Students can say “I know how to do this!” and student created blogs can serve as a way for parents to check up on what their children are learning (depending on the privacy settings).
  5. Privacy and how to control who can see what.
  6. Intellectual property and appropriate usage and the need to cite sources, photographs, etc.

Overall, I see many positives for blogging in the classroom with the appropriate lessons to students about privacy, writing to an audience, post appropriateness. As long as the instructor takes the time and the steps to set students up for success, I can see blogging being very beneficial for students.


Feedly Feeds My Need-To-Know

So I made the plunge, I set up my Feedly account (I even downloaded the app!) and I have to say that this app somewhat confuses me. It isn’t always easy to add a blog to my Feedly, but after some tweaking I do often accomplish that goal.

I really like the idea for this service because (in true Ravenclaw fashion) I really like to learn new things all the time. Feedly helps me keep all my sources in one convenient location, which saves time and data for this wandering substitute teacher.


A glimpse of my Feedly

Because it isn’t always simple to add an interesting blog to Feedly, that limits what I add to my feed. In addition to the ease of adding a blog or source to Feedly, I find content via my PLN on Twitter and other educator’s blogs. I do check the source (as in, is the blog a fellow educator or professional?) and I read a few posts to see if the content is relevant to me.

I have a few categories, Education, Ed Tech and Social Studies to cater to my broad interest and few specific professional interests of mine. Where Feedly might be limiting my PLN is the fact that a free account can only follow 100 feeds (I have over 30 already!) so I might have to pick my feeds carefully as I continue to use this service.

One source that I have followed since my undergraduate days is History Tech. It is a blog focused on Social Studies and technology. He usually posts some great resources and great ideas to integrate in the classroom. In addition to blog posts, he also has podcasts, videos and webinar resources so that his subscribers can get a variety of information in a variety of sources. For example,  he uses a dorsal fin analogy to get students engaged in historical thinking, not just the memorization of dates, names and esoteric facts that most high school students will forget at the end of the semester. He outlines several different ways this strategy can be used within a classroom setting, at multiple levels. This is gold, I always find great social studies ideas on Twitter and Pinterest only to have to tweak it for the grade level which I am teaching. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, but Glenn outlines different levels of the strategy so it is useful for different grade levels.

Another source that I follow is OverDrive Blogs. I just started following this source the other day but the feed itself seems to talk about free online sources, books to integrate into class and tools for the educator. I am excited to see what tools and new ideas this feed will bring to me! Sometimes I have a brainwave of a cool idea or concept that I want to teach in class, but I am unable to find sources for it (or reading materials for my students) and I think OverDrive might be able to help me with this problem in the future.

What are some of your favorite sources on Feedly?


Culture of Participation and Democracy?

I apologize ahead of time if this seems a bit scattered, it is Friday after all!

“We don’t just enjoy, we participate”

-Alec Couros

This quote made me think (I might have paraphrased), what could this look like in my (future) classroom? Mr. Couros made me think even more when he shared a slide that said “if you can Google it, why teach it?”

My mind was (slightly) blown.

As a social studies teacher, I frequently encounter students who want to ask Google instead of coming to their own conclusions. I remember one class, I assigned an in-class debate. The students really struggled to fill out their debate forms (while researching the topic) because “Mrs. Keller, there is no right or wrong answer! I can’t find anything on Google!”

I think as teachers, we have to remember that we are not only teaching content, we are also teaching our students skills to be successful after graduation, no matter what our students choose to pursue. We should be concerned about teaching students information literacy, critical thinking and a passion for learning that they can pursue throughout their lifetime.

So back to my original question, what role does participatory culture play in my classroom? I think it looks like student-created content, teaching skills (not just “facts”) and inspiring passion for my students.

“Media is not content…Media mediates human relations.”

-Michael Wesch

As a social studies educator, I think I get hung up on telling my students what happened instead of letting them explore and research the what, the who, the how, the where, the when, and the why of history and social studies. I sometimes use my history degree as an excuse, but really I enjoy talking about history to just about anyone who will listen. I really need to remind myself that I should be imparting a sense of citizenship upon my students. After all, they are the future.

What does this look like?

My students need skills to succeed and they also need passion. I was inspired by my Methods class at Montana State as well as High Tech High. My instructor was a big fan of Project Based Learning and community involvement within the classroom.

I think our students need to know they can make a difference. Thanks to technology and participatory culture, they can. I would love to (eventually) have my own classroom and I hope that I have the patience (and the fortitude) to create the classroom I see in my head at this moment. I see a classroom where students are passionate about being the change they see in the world, where they are involved with the community, where they become involved citizens and where they want to learn new things and be passionate about learning.

Students can change so much, with so little. It is easy to upload a video on YouTube (It may or may not be easy to create such a video, just ask Michael Wesch), a student can create a petition or a GoFundMe campaign for something they feel is important. The possibilities for change and for the creation of content are endless. Let’s help our students see those possibilities!

I might have a complete picture in my head of what participatory culture looks like in my (future) classroom, but I do realize that it needs to be embraced and that our students need guidance and the skills to make a difference and for success after high school. What does participatory culture look like in your (future?) classroom?

Until next time, keeping learning!