‘Tech’ it or leave it 

I’ve started at my new school as a teacher of a Year3/Year4 class. It’s the first time I have had the opportunity to teach a mixed year group and I’m looking forward to the changes that it will bring to my style of teaching and how I will organise the class effectively. It’s too early to make generalisations but as the years of experience gather we can make very good assumptions as to which of our students will continue to do well and which will need that experience to bring them up to speed. The same is true for the technology that I am considering to be most effective in this coming year for my class. I am basing my assumptions on what has worked effectively in the past and should continue to work well with my new class. But first let me list some of these tools before outlining the ones I intend to use.

Tried and trusted tech

  • Audacity – This is a must in any classroom environment. It’s an open source (free) sound editing tool that is simple to use but is also a very powerful audio editor/mixer/creator. I have used it to capture guided reading sessions, recounts, stories, podcasts, top ten lists, anything that involves capturing and editing audio. Let your imagination run with this. I particularly like the facility to record and manipulate your voice – you can sound like a chipmunk, slow your voice to a crawl, play it backwards. I’ve also used it to capture cassette tapes played through the PC mic and then converted them to mp3 for internal classroom use. Don’t forget to download the LAME MP3 plugin or else you won’t be able to save your audio creations in MP3 format.

Popular tech

  • PhotoPeach – This is a wonderfully easy and effective photo presentation tool that children will find addictive. Check out these samples from my own class.
  • VoiceThread – If you have a class that wants to let their views out upon the world then don’t shy away from this clever online tool. Combining text, voice and video into one seamless interactive ‘page’ you and your class will enjoy creating and posting your thoughts and ideas.
  • Wordle – Simply put, the more words you paste into the the greater visual impact it will return. Fantastic for an instant word hit.
  • Animoto – If you want to raise your game in the video editing stakes but are not quite ready for a fully blown movie editing package then animoto is perhaps what you’re lloking for. Upload some video, photo and audio and it does the rest, producing a 30 second visual feast for free. There’s a cost for longer videos but many say it’s worth it.
  • Edmodo – A social networking site for classroom use. It’s safe and an effective tool for communication with your class, and for your class to communicate with each other. You can set up homework, assignments, create calendars, share files, assess and respond to work, create reminders. I used it last term with great success.

New and exciting tech

There’s only one tool that I’m really looking forward to this month and that’s Google Wave. It’s been described as an online communication and collaboration tool that’s done in real time. If you haven’t watched the video then do so and sign up to get a first look.

p.s. I can’t let this tool slip by without a mention. A few days back, Tim Rylands happened to post a link about this on Twitter. It’s called ScreenJelly and it lets you record exactly what is on your screen when you press the record button AND record a voiceover AND post it directly to Twitter or email. All without downloading anything. It’s a brilliant wee tool and one which I thoroughly recommend. I’ll have to try this out with my class too.

There are many, many more tools out there. Too many to try and use effectively. If there’s one thing to learn about these new, and exciting online tools it’s how do they fit into your teaching and learning? Find the time to try them and judge for yourself.