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20% Project: Wrap Up

When I started my 20% Project I had set out to find technology that would work well with specifically a Social Studies classroom. My goal was to find technology that would encourage learning in new and different ways while continuing that process after students left the classroom. I found some really good tools that will work well for a Social Studies classroom, but I also found numerous tools and ideas that would work for any subject area. I found that there are plenty of tools available for use in the classroom as well as numerous resources available to connect with students and parents after the official school day ends. All in all I would say that this project has been relatively successful for me!

One thing that I found very interesting while researching my project was that engaging students required engaging parents as well. In order for home to become part of the learning process it is important that parents become a vital role as well. In my quest to find tools that would help me engage students I also found tools that will allow me to more effectively engage parents and get them involved with what their student’s are learning in their Social Studies class. Originally I thought it would take different tools to engage the two different groups, but I found that in reality many of the tools would work well for either audience. Similarly I found that tools that worked in other subject areas would also work in mine. When I started looking for Social Studies technology I thought it would take on new and interesting things, but what I found was that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when there are so many great tools out there that will work for multiple different areas.

If I had more time to continue working on this 20% project I believe I would start looking at how well different tools work in different settings. Looking for real world experiences and comparing apples to apples with different tools I think it is necessary to narrow down all of the tools I found into a select few that really do the job well. I think it is important to not take on too many new tools at once because at some point it will bog you down and it may all crash. I think a lot of the tools I found have a lot of potential, but I would love to spend more time with each one comparing them and seeing which ones work for multiple roles and which ones best serve the needs of a Social Studies teacher.

My experience with this 20% Project has been a good one. I learned new things and found several new tools and technologies that I hope to one day incorporate into a classroom setting. It has been nice that this project was spread out over the length of the course allowing it to continually grow and develop. In total I spent a good deal of time researching my topic and was able to produce concise blogs about what I was finding. Feeling as if the blogs were just an outlet to organize our thoughts the writing really did not take time away from the research itself and I think that was a huge success for me personally.

I think that projects like this are a great idea that more teachers should be using. The fact that each student got to dive into a topic that they found interesting is huge! There are so many benefits to allowing students to chose what they are studying. Truly the only complaint I have with this project is the fact that it didn’t last longer. I feel like every week I was making more and more progress and I think it would be interesting to see where it would have gone with say a ten week course. I will say that the idea of a 20% Project is something that I will strongly consider using in my classroom one day!

20% Project: Third Post

Last week I looked at ways to engage students once they left school. I still believe that the key to success in the education process is to ensure that students are still engaged by what they are learning even while they are at home. However, a large majority of what I found last week about engaging students once they got home pointed towards the need to engage parents and get them on board with what is going on in their child’s learning. With that in mind this week I want to look at ways to engage parents with technology so that they can play a major role in their child’s learning after the school day ends.

The last few weeks I have tried really hard to avoid duplicating tools that I have already found. However, this week I think it is more important to find high quality tools than to find new tools. With that said there may be repeats from other areas of this course.

Similar to my last couple of posts I started this week with various Google searches regarding engaging parents of students with technology. I found multiple sites and article that provided good information and ideas. These two sites in particular really hit the nail on the head with what I was looking for when I started the Google searches!

Ways to Use Technology to Engage With Parents

5 Ways to Use Technology to Engage with Parents

Boiling both sites down to the basics these sites pretty much line up with each other on how to engage parents. Both sites recommend texting tools such as Remind101 or ClassPager to communicate important material with parents by relaying it straight to their phone. ClassPager is a new tool to me and it looks like it has a lot of potential for engaging parents and students! Both sites recommend setting up Educational Blogs to keep parents on the same page with what is going on in class so that they can help students to the best of their ability at home. It initially surprised me when I saw both of these sites recommend Twitter and Skype as means to connect with parents, but the more I read into it the more I really liked the idea. Twitter is a great tool to engage students and why not use it to its maximum ability by engaging parents at the same time. Skype is also a great tool! I know how hard it is to get parents in to school for parent teacher conferences with their busy schedules. Skype breaks down a lot of those constraints to allow parent teacher conferences at any time and any location. I simply don’t think it gets any more effective in engaging parents and pulling them into their student’s learning process!

The newest tool I found this week was Teacher App & Grade Book. There are similar tools out there, but this looks promising. This app for smart phones and mobile devises is a tool that allows teachers to publish grades, attendance, reminders and other important material that can be accessed by parents and students. This tool makes instant access to the learning process simple and easy regardless of when and where you try to get involved. Parents can know exactly how there students are doing and what they need to work harder at every time they pick up their phone!

Looking back at the things I have found and read this week I can’t help but realize most of it is not new. Most of what I found for engaging parents is the same stuff I found for engaging students. Though I was initially disappointed that I didn’t find a brand new, ground breaking tool, I am not disappointed anymore. It doesn’t have to be new and different to engage parents, but instead it just has to be effective. Plus, if you  look on the bright side, using the same tools to engage students and parents simply means that as a teacher I don’t have to learn new tools and tricks. I can be effective by learning what I already use and using it well across the board!

20% Project: Second Post

This week I will look at ways to engage students in a Social Studies classroom with technology even when they leave school. In my experiences once the school day stops a large portion of the learning stops. Keeping in mind how much time is spent away from school I think it is important to find ways to engage students away from school so that they might keep learning.

It has been really fun to build our tool-kits for this class the last two weeks. While meeting the requirements for those particular tasks I have found plenty of ideas that I hope to one day implement as a teacher in a Social Studies classroom. However, just like last week I am going to try to stay away from those ideas because they are already done and I am hoping to find addition information that could help me one day.

Once again I turned to Google for ideas on how to engage students away from school. My searches included: Ways to Engage Students at Home; Ways to Communicate with Students After Class; Ways to Keep Learning Going at Home; Tools for Learning at Home; and several others.

To be honest I was a little disappointed with a lot of my results this week. There were only a couple of searches that yielded anything useful for what I was looking for. With that said I did find a few good sites and got some good ideas from things I saw and read.

These are two of the sources that I found most beneficial for what I was looking for:

10 Great Tools for Student-Teacher Communication and
12 Online Tools For Effective Teacher to Student and Parent Communication

Between these two pages I found several tools that I think could be really helpful. Some of the more obvious tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Drive, Edmodo and Dropbox were mentioned, but it was good to see them again. There were also numerous new tools that I had not heard of or thought of before. Here are the top four that I feel like have the most potential for what I was looking for.

1) Remind 101: This tool is imperative to reaching students once they go home. Students may leave school but they never leave their phone. Remind 101 is a great way to send out reminders about projects, tests, or even send facts and information from class. This is a simple but incredibly effective way to engage students once they leave school!

2) Quizlet: This tool is great to let the learning continue after the school day ends. This site allows teachers to create flashcards and practices quizzes for their students that they can access from any device with internet. If any tool stands to increase test scores and continue learning at home this one might just be it!

3) QuizSnack: With this tool student feedback is always available. This site allows you to create polls and surveys that students can fill out while they are at home. This is a great way to tailor the learning process to the needs of every student and to make sure that everyone in class is staying on track and on the same page!

4) Astrid: This site is really neat and super useful for multiple reasons. Astrid allows for the creation of reminders, task lists, and provides notifications along the way. Perfect for teachers to monitor their student’s progress. Perfect for students to make sure they are doing the right things at the right time. Perfect for group projects where classmates need to divide up tasks and achieve their goals. This is a well rounded and very useful tool!

Looking back at all the things I read and found this week I think what it’s really going to take to continue the learning process at home is to engage parents as well and get them on board with being a major part of their kids learning as much as possible!

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20% Project: First Post

For my 20% Project I plan to examine ideas and ways to incorporate technology into specifically a Social Studies classroom. There are plenty of options out there for incorporating technology into classrooms, but I will look at how to make it work effectively in a Social Studies setting given that is what I plan to teach. I believe that in order to effectively use technology in education it cannot stop when the bell rings at the end of class. For that reason I hope to find effective ways to incorporate technology effectively and appropriately within the classroom and outside of class once students leave.

While working on our Communication and Collaboration Tool Kit, I found that many of the things I was finding would work well in a Social Studies class. However, since that is an on going project for class I will largely leave those behind for now and start digging even deeper to see what I can find.

I started in the only reasonable way I know, with a Google search. I was always told to ‘keep it simple’ so I did just that. I typed “technology for social studies” in and let Google work its magic.

Here are the first four links Google provided and what I found from each:

1) Free Technology for Teachers: When I clicked on this site and saw that it was from 2010 I was a little concerned that the information it contained might be too dated to be helpful. Though some of the information is old news the page as a whole was very informative. Being compiled by a Social Studies teacher these 12 resources seem to be excellent for use in a Social Studies class. As always Google provides useful tools and using Google Earth, Maps,  Books, and Scholar are good ideas. I won’t go into all of the resources, but there were useful links to help find documents, news, and games for students learning multiple Social Studies topics. Perhaps my favorite link though was the link the National Archives Daily Document. This seems like a very fun and fresh way to provide students with a large variety of material that is engaging and meaningful to what they are learning.

2) Integrating Technology in the Social Studies Class: This site is a source from Glencoe and McGraw-Hill. Even though this site wasn’t quite as helpful it provided great ideas for five different Social Studies lessons that incorporate technology. Each of the lessons was laid out with a method for completion and links to web resources to be used during the lesson. This is a link that I will hold on to because there are great lessons for US and World History classes on this site!

3) Technology Position Statement and Guidelines: This site is the for the National Council for the Social Studies. This was probably the least helpful site I found this week as the title says it is merely a position statement for this organization. However, the article was an interesting read. The point was clearly made that technology was becoming a major part of Social Studies Education and that as educators there is a responsibility to help teach students about and with such technology. The 5 points of rationale that are included in the article are very insightful and I feel that any teacher in the Social Studies field should read these and approach technology in the learning process with this mindset.

4) Teaching History with Technology: This site is HUGE and to be honest I am not sure why it wasn’t the top result on Google. This site is developed by “The Center for Teaching History with Technology” and to say it is a wealth of information would be an unfair understatement! The resources are great and numerous, there are lessons, activities, presentations, discussions, collaboration tools, assessments and rubrics and even tools for iPads and mobile devices. I wasn’t able to even scratch the surface of this site, but based on what I found I am more than certain that this site will be helpful as a Social Studies Educator and possibly even throughout the remainder of this class!