Saturday, February 18, 2017

#WUEDT6020 Keeping up with EdTech Efficiently

This is my second blog post for my graduate class WUEDT6020 Emerging Trends in Educational Technology at Wilmington University. 

Keeping up with current trends in EdTech can be overwhelming!  There's so much out there to read, watch, and try.  I think growing my PLN (Professional Learning Network) has really helped me hone in on what I felt was important to me.  (I blogged about my PLN a few years ago too - you can read about it here.)  I've learned through the years to limit who I follow on Twitter so I don't get overloaded.  Some people click the Follow button too freely; I am more selective lately.  I look for Tweeps who are interested in teaching mathematics and also those who are using technology to teach mathematics.  That way I'm sure that what I see in my feed is important to me and I don't get caught up in looking at posts about things that won't help me in my classroom, because that is my primary reason for joining Twitter.

Other tools that I have utilized to keep up with new ideas in EdTech is reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and participating in webinars.  My family thinks I'm a real geek because I spend so much of my free time doing these things, but if that's what I'm passionate about, I don't see a problem with that!

As far as blogs I read, you can find most of them on my blog's side bar - just scroll down to the "Blogs I Read" section.  My inbox is filled every day with alerts to new posts that have been made to the blogs I follow.  Keeping up with all of them can be a little overwhelming too, but I try to squeeze in a little time every day to read a few, and catch up with the rest on the weekends while I eat breakfast.  Not everything that the people I follow blog about is interesting to me, so I have learned to skim and delete them instead of reading the entire post like I used to do to save some more of my limited time.

I have to admit I haven't listened to many podcasts lately.  For quite a while though I would listen every Saturday and Sunday morning while I was in the shower - I know that sounds weird!  Some people like to listen to books on tape while driving, I liked to listen to podcasts while in the shower!  The podcasts I listened to were about using iPads in the classroom, flipped classrooms, the SAMR model, using technology to teach math, using Google apps, etc.  Many podcast would have guest speakers, so if I liked what they had to say, I would follow them on Twitter too.

Webinars are another great way to get professional development and keep up with new trends in EdTech.  Some of the first webinars I participated in were on SimpleK12 - "PD in your PJs" is their motto!  That was another way I learned about using iPads in the classroom.  Since then I've participated in other webinars on topics ranging from Minecraft EDU to building student's number sense to using technology for formative assessments.  What I like about webinars is that even if I can't attend the live webinar, most usually have a link to watch it later when it's more convenient for me.

The bottom line is don't go crazy trying to keep on top of all the new EdTech out there - use your valuable time as efficiently as possible.  Pick and choose what you read, watch, and follow so you're only seeing information that is truly important to you - even if that means unfollowing some people on Twitter or unsubscribing to blogs that you no longer find useful.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

#WUEDT6020 EdTech in Math Class

This is my first blog post for my graduate class WUEDT6020 Emerging Trends in Educational Technology at Wilmington University. 

When my school first started adding technology (i.e. BYOD and iPads) about 4 years ago, some teachers were excited about it, others not so much.  Our administrators encouraged us to use it in our classrooms, provided some PD on it, and modeled using it in our staff meetings.  Eventually most teachers gave it a shot, but our math teachers struggled with how to use it with their curriculum.  Most searched for "math" apps.  After attending various webinars and listening to several podcasts, I realized "math" apps were not going work - I needed to find apps that were able to be used for any concept, not just specifically for practicing math facts, factoring, or solving equations for example.  I needed to find non-content specific, creation-type apps that I could build many of my lessons around.  Apps that could be used throughout the school year with any topic.  Apps that the students became comfortable with and adept with because we used them consistently.  Some of the apps I began using on the iPads were:
Then along came our 1:1 Chromebooks.  Luckily they had touch screens because many of the apps I had used on the iPads also had web-based applications that I could continue to use, and many had drawing features, which work really well for math because students can show their work when solving problems and not just submit their final answers.  Many math teachers complained because a lot of the applications did not have equation editors so adding complex math equations with the necessary symbols was difficult if not impossible.  I have seen much improvement in this area - many more applications have added the ability to write math equations, making them much more user-friendly.

I feel like through the past few years I have really scaled back with the amount of technology I use in my classes.  I used to try out new applications all the time and experiment with my guinea pigs students.  I would like to fall short of saying that I used to use technology just for technology sake, but now I do think more about whether the technology will really make my lesson better and help my students understand concepts better.  Here's a short list of applications we use in my math classes this year:
With the exception of Desmos, the rest are all non-content specific, making it easy to use them for any topic we are currently working on.  Actually, I have used the Desmos Activity Builder card sort for many other concepts besides graphing, so I guess you could consider it non-content specific as well!  As far as Kahoot! goes, I don't use it because it makes a lesson better, I use it because it's a super engaging way to review before a quiz.  Another major player in my classroom is Google Classroom, but I didn't include that in my list because I think of it as more of a learning management system than an application to teach with.  It's what's I include links to in Classroom that is the actual EdTech that I use to enhance student learning.

If you teach math and are looking for ways to integrate technology, I would highly recommend you checking out this short list of applications. I have also blogged about several of them in the past as well.  (Check out my blog archives on the right side bar.) 

What applications do you use in your math classes?  I would love to hear about them!