Technology Post Round-Up

To wrap up our month of Technology posts, I’ve rounded up some past posts related to different technology in the classroom:

Turn Cell Phones into a Tool for Formative Assessment 2/18/14edmodo

Tools for Teachers: Remind 101 and Celly 2/20/14

Hey, Khan– can’t ELA be flipped, too? 2/25/14

Project Possible: Edmodo 3/11/14

Interdisciplinary Literacy and Project Based Learning with The New York Times Learning Network 3/25/14

Vocabulary Strategies 5/20/14  (discusses Quizlet)Slide1

Making Vocabulary Fun with Quizlet! 6/24/14 (another post on Quizlet)


What about you? Is there a technology tool that you would like to share?

Grade Smarter (with Technology)

This post originally appeared at Ms. F’s Teaching Adventures. Reprinted with permission.

Grading. Especially as an English teacher, that word sends CHILLS down my spine. What I love about teaching is interacting with the students, presenting information, and getting creative. I do not like assigning grades and pouring over a hundred versions of essentially the same essay. I find it tedious.

I have attended several professional development sessions on assessment and I have taken classes in curriculum design. The common theme deals with figuring out what you’re trying to assess and to make sure your assessment focuses on that.

I think, as English teachers, we often try to assess EVERYTHING all at the same time and that is what causes us to take so long and to get so frustrated. Because of this I am currently experimenting with a few different grading techniques.

The first, is color coded grading. I had all of my students in my college class turn in their persuasive papers in via email. They had to color code their papers. I was specifically looking for persuasive techniques: Kairos, Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. I required them to highlight each of those items. I also wanted to make sure they had a strong thesis statement so I had them highlight that in another color.

This allows for a couple of things to happen.

1. Students, before turning in an assignment are forced to go through it one more time and see if they’ve included all the necessary elements. If they haven’t they can quickly fix it! Ideally this means we are getting stronger papers overall.

2. Teachers can quickly find all the elements that specifically need to be graded. And, more importantly can see if the students understand what these elements mean. Was the sentence they identified as a thesis statement truly a thesis statement?

Here’s my process with this technique.

I read the whole paper and focus on the grammar for the first two paragraphs. Then, I go to fill in my rubric (I always use a specific rubric with point values for this technique) and revisit each section. I write my comments and move on.

Because the submissions were made via files online I was able to type comments right in which, for me, is much faster.

I have a few other Grade Smarter ideas that I will be posting about soon.

What about you? What are your grading tricks?

TPT ProfileSara Fuller is a 5 year veteran English teacher with an MA in literature who has experience teaching students ranging from the middle school to college level. She blogs about her teaching adventures at Ms. F’s Teaching Adventures and young adult books at YA Lit, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly!
Full Bio

Sunday Panel

What is your best contingency plan (or horror story!) when your technology is unavailable?Sunday Panel Sticky

profile pic2

Tara, Science in the City:  

This is a tough one. I think it depends what the technology issues are. I try to have a list of missing work printed out for students, since that is something they can work on if the technology isn’t working. If they are doing research, its a good idea to have the corresponding pages in a textbook, or a few printouts that they can use. If possible, maybe download some resources onto your computer so you can project them on the screen if needed.

My most recent ‘horror story’ was having the kids do a webquest on tsunami. We were using netbooks, and evidently they weren’t charged. I knew the activity would run about an hour. About 45 minutes in, kids were raising their hand one after the other to tell me that their computer was out of batteries. First I had them partner up, but that was no longer feasible. I ended up grouping them, and having some use my computer and watch a video on the screen, some use my computer charger with a netbook to finish an earlier section, and take turns, working on other assignments in between. It was far from ideal, but they handled it well!

EllenBrain7 (1)

Ellen Weber:

Just as spark plugs create ignition needed to start a car, technology sparks most of my class engines into motion. I invite students to use hash-tags for discussions, design and share videos, engage us on list-serves and create innovative proposals.

Technology often sparks innovation – when I prepare for it ahead.

When technology breaks, or slows students’ progress though, I encourage us to move on as if it never happened.

Sudden surprises tend to follow lack of planning.
On a day that I had too little time to preview a documentary, I trusted the introduction to the brief video.

Imagine my shock when five minutes in – several players began to disrobe. Forget sparks – I pulled the plug.

Technology had initiated another kind of explanation – one about the importance of planning ahead – brought about by my inattention to preview the entire video.


CDickson Profile PicClair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget:

When I was student teaching, we had scheduled the computer lab. But, when we got to the lab, the internal intranet was down. Students were used to saving their work on the intranet in their designated folder. They also could no access internet to email files to themselves. Bascially, they could work, but they couldn’t save anything. No one wanted to work on their drafts– even if they finished and printed it out, they’d have to re-type it for a final draft. Ultimately it was a wasted class period. One thing I learned from that was to always have a back-up plan in case the technology isn’t available. For example, I would have added a short project that related to the current work that they could complete during (what remained) of the class period and print off, pt even draw and color by hand to submit.


SPbuttonSpanish Plans:

If I am using technology to enhance a lesson, like showing a Youtube video, and am experiencing difficulties, I will just move on to another activity. After teaching for awhile, you build up quite a few tricks in your bag of how to use your time effectively. I may end up practicing vocabulary with the students by asking them questions.
If the whole lesson is dependent on technology, I make sure to have a backup plan. Usually this involves moving to the next day’s activities or creating a backup activity. Of course, you can’t plan for everything, so I tend to do my best thinking on my feet, any create an activity spontaneously.

new logo blog

Jackie, Room 213:

Instead of sharing a horror story, I’m going to share a cautionary tale.   One Monday morning last spring, teachers arrived at our school to find that the system was down.  No access to our computers at all.  After the initial panic, teachers left their classrooms and gathered in the staff room or our various TPC’s.  We chatted about the weekend, laughed and actually connected with each other–instead of our machines.  Yes, we had to do some juggling to get things ready for first period.  We couldn’t use our lessons on the Smart Board, or show that youtube video that we wanted to use, but that was OK.  Really.   That day, we could have given into the panic, but we used the time to relax and have fun with each other.  Technology is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, but sadly our e-connections sometimes keep us away from the real connections.


Turning Images and Words into Art

I’ve made a recent discovery that I am obsessed with: WordFoto. I found it on Pinterest and then followed the pin to their website, where they say you can “turn your photos and words into stunning works of art.” Even though it was only available as an app, I was intrigued enough to purchase it for $1.99. It reminded me of Wordle, which generates “word clouds,” but I liked WordFoto’s use of images.
However, once I purchased it, I needed to figure out how I could use it with my computer. I’m not particularly tech savvy, but here’s my procedure:
1. I find the image I want to use and compose an email to myself with the image saved as an attachment.
2. I open my email on my Iphone and save the image to my photo library.
3. Once the picture is saved, I go to my WordFoto app and open the image there.
4. I add my word set. The makers of the app recommend that you don’t use long words or sentences, so I’ve kept my words and phrases short (no spaces) and limited them to three – five words.
5. Next, I choose my style, where I can make choices about my font and background. You can choose from the preset styles such as Classic Color, Comic, or Romance, or you can create a custom style.

As I learned to use it I started with a photo of my dog Buster when he was a puppy: buster

Then, of course, I decided to experiment with images for some TpT product covers.  I searched for a symbolic image and found an attractive photo in the public domain.  I entered key words for my product and created my image.  Finally, I emailed the new WordFoto image to myself so I could open it on my PC at home.  Here is one I made for a recent product cover:


ccc1Just to be sure I could use my images commercially, I checked the website and discovered that users “have full responsibility and rights to the images (created) with WordFoto… including commercially.”  The creators of the app have just asked for a link back to their website. Besides using this app for personal photos and TpT products, I hope to use it when I teach Young Writers Camp in the coming weeks. I’ve also used our blog button to create a WordFoto:


This has been a fun and exciting learning process.   I’m sure there are more uses for WordFoto…Do you have any ideas?  Or do you know other apps that might also be useful?  Please share in the comments!

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeachTeacher, is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.




Sunday Panel: Technology Classroom Management

Sunday Panel StickyHow do you handle classroom management issues when using technology?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City: I try to keep a few things in mind:
-Make sure the lesson is engaging and the time limit is reasonable to keep kids focused
– Lay out expectations before starting to use any technology
– Don’t be afraid to take away the technology if it is an issue, but provide an alternate assignment.
– Allow a little bit of leeway, within reason, if work is getting competed. Some students really do work better with music through headphones, etc.
OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKimberly, OC Beach Teacher: Unfortunately, Internet is not reliable in my school, and I’ve learned the hard way that I had better be prepared. Here’s an example: For the past few semesters I have required my students to complete an argumentative essay. They choose from approximately 20 topics and use our school’s online databases for their research. On a couple of occasions, the Internet connectivity has been unreliable; some students had access while others did not. This, of course, leads to lots of students complaining, playing games, and overwhelming me with their needs. Sadly, some teachers at my school have refused to do research anymore because they don’t want to deal with the management problems. However, this year I printed reliable articles on each topic before we started the essay. It’s not ideal because I do a lot of their work, but at least I can hand them research articles and continue the assignment!
new logo blogJackie,Room 213: It is such a battle to keep the kids off their phones. I discuss it with them on the very first day. We have a big debate about the pros and cons of having them in class and then we work together to come up with a fair terms of use. It doesn’t always work, but I can remind them that they made up the rules!
AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn, Algebra Simplified: Edmodo has saved me many headaches when managing a class utilizing computers. Edmodo gives students a home base. When my students enter a computer lab, they don’t wait for directions. They log onto Edmodo and read their directions. Students hit a snag in the lesson; I can send a solution out to the class through Edmodo. A student’s opportunity to say I have nothing else to do is extremely limited when I have multiple extension opportunities posted on the class’s Edmodo page. I ❤ Edmodo!
CDickson Profile PicClair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget: My biggest challenges were access to technology as well as ability with technology. I never had the computer lab to myself and often had to share, which meant not enough computers. I would use teams and companion activities so if five students are on the comptuers, then the rest are working on a related companion activity. They could rotated as computers were available. Some classes I could trust to go to the lab with a pass, others I wouldn’t trust while watching them carefully, let alone out of sight, so I would have to have back-up plans and plans B, C, and D for working around access to technology. Flexibility and many possible plans made it work.
SPbuttonSpanish Plans: When using iPads, all students are assigned a specific iPad to use. That way if we find anything innappropriate, we can track it to the students who use that device. I also make sure to walk around as much as possible. By giving students clear instructions and an objective to achieve with the device, students are more likely to stay on task.

How do you handle classroom management issues when using technology?

Students and Social Media


Students and social media combined:
It is a new fact of life in education. Adults explain to students why the Internet is forever, teachers define valuable sources, and parents fret over lurking dangers. Yet, 94%* of teens on the Internet use social media. We adults worry – rightfully so – about teens misusing social media.

Technology has given young minds social media. Schools can provide a positive example through social media use, and engage students concerning their futures and educations. Social media is part of students’ lives. Schools can capitalize on this with positive messages for students.

Your school or department may realize this and have a social media page. Is it active though? It may be an afterthought or forgotten from previous employees. The presence may lack because of the time to find appropriate, safe, and engaging ideas.

A new product on TpT, Monthly Social Media and Newsletter Blurbs, solves these common problems and gives schools easy and accessible knowledge to share.

Each month, you can purchase a bundle of “blurbs” for your social media page or newsletter. They “blurbs” are easy to use – simply copy and paste them where you need them!

For example, the August Social Media and Newsletter Blurbs focuses on encouraging students as they return to school, empowering students, reminding them of school procedures and rules, and providing health tips.

The blurbs are not all the same. Some are longer, with appropriate articles linked. Others are simple reminders – a few sentences encouraging organizational habits.


Five images are included and are royalty free, so once you purchase them, use them freely without giving me credit!

These monthly social media blurbs will provide students with meaningful and timely information. They will provide educators with easy copy and paste information for students.

Setting up a social media page on Facebook or Twitter is simple. Maintaining a social media presence is difficult. Businesses employ social media experts, and designate advertising budgets for social media. Schools can compete with a small investment in materials to share on the social media.

Lets harness the power of social media and explore ways to get students using social media in positive ways. Lets provide examples of meaningful social interaction.

Owning daily blurbs for social media, month by month, is a start.
August Social Media and Newsletter Blurbs

*Supporting article for statistic on teenage facebook friends

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee Moss, a secondary language arts instructor, has taught for over a decade. She has a B.S. in English Education and a M.A. in Teaching and Leadership; visit her blog for more ideas or store for great products.
Full Bio

Is It Okay to NOT Use Technology?

Tech in the Classroom 2 Tablets, Smartphones, SmartBoards, Apps, and more are invading our classrooms.  They bring interactivity, multi-media, and edu-tainment.  They bring new classroom management challenges (oh, how to have a jammer for text messaging in my classroom!)  But is it okay to not use digital textbooks, eReaders, Smartboards, or videos?  Is it okay to do things “old school?”

Let me first assure you that I do love technology.  Case in point– summer of 2010 I brought home two very exciting new additions to my life: my newborn son and a copy of Office 2010.  One of them did a lot of fun stuff those summer days, while the other mainly slept and ate and didn’t come with a Help button…

I love exploring new technology, and I love many of the possibilities it offers.  But my classroom was not a technologically advanced classroom.  I did not have a Smartboard.  I had a chalkboard… sometimes, I even had chalk!  Sometimes I worried that my students were missing out by not being able to pull out some digital device to look things up or watch a video or text-in an answer.

My classroom was not the only hopelessly out of date classroom out there– there are many, I’m sure, in areas too cash-strapped to upgrade.  And yet, in spite of this, my students learned.   At times, they were engaged in projects that did not use or require technology.  Other times, they were working on regular old school work– dead trees to read from and write on.  Things not inherently “fun” or “interactive” (overlooking the fact that learning can be fun just because it’s learning!)

Note Taking in 2012Technology can easily become a crutch.  We rely on it rather than ourselves.  Such as taking a photo of the lecture notes or getting a PowerPoint from the teacher– rather than doing the work of reading and re-writing (and in theory writing down only the important stuff), students “save” themselves work.  But what are they losing?  Students no longer have to process the information.  They just “have” it, which skips an important step of learning.

But what about scaffolding? How does one build connections if information is not retained?  How much more is remembered by writing (even copying) something compared to taking a picture or reading the notes (assuming the student actually does that, rather than planning to but failing to follow through?)

Back in math class, sometimes we would have to work without our calculator (gasp!) to ensure we knew the process and complete it manually.  I think that this notion applies to all classrooms, from time to time.  Can the student spell without spellchecker?  Can they take notes by hand and capture the important information?  Can they do order of operations without a calculator?  Can they read a diagram that’s not interactive? Can they find things in a book rather than online?

And I do believe that not only is okay to not use technology, but it can be useful to do things ‘old school.’

(You’ll pry my digital gradebook from my cold dead hands, though.)
CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher (and computer nerd!), likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget. Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.
Full Bio