Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tools to Help Become a Tech Savvy Educator

Cross-posted at The Educator's Royal Treatment.

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been working on a educational technology presentation for principals in a NJ school district.  The title I chose was "Harnessing the Power of Educational Technology" as I firmly believe that the many free tools available at our fingertips possess the ability to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency as administrators.  Below I will break down the main components of my presentation in an attempt to provide a toolkit to be used by other administrators, or any educator for that matter, across the globe.
21st Century Leadership
  • Shift Happens (must see video for any educator unfamiliar with the tends and impacts associated with technology and social media.
  • Sustainable change relies on understanding people, culture, and processes.  This is best accomplished through collaboration, consensus, and understanding.
  • 21st Century Educators must be able to adapt, communicate, take risks, model, continually learn, collaborate, exhibit vision, and lead.
  • Leaders in the "Digital Age" share their vision, learn with other educators, start conversations, lead by example, encourage innovative practices, integrate technology, are transparent, and leverage the power of Web 2.0
  • Principals can use social media for communication, public relations, branding, professional development, and opportunity. 
  • Keys for Principals: Support your staff, be flexible, exhibit passion, don't use time as an excuse to learn, take/encourage risks, and model.
    Web 2.0 Tools for Learning
    • Twitter: Improve instruction through global collaboration (sharing resources, best practices, lesson ideas, acquire knowledge, networking, tracking conferences, etc.), grow professionally by establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN), follow specific hashtags (#).  To become more familiar with Twitter check out this video.
    • Ning: Customizable social network similar to Facebook, great place to connect with other educators, pivotal to a PLN.  Two great Nings to sign up for are The Educator's PLN and Classroom 2.0.  Check out this Ning tutorial.
      Google Apps
      • Google Docs: An online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation editor that allows for easy organization and communication.  Also has a feature for easily creating forms to conduct surveys and collect data.  Features include upload/convert to any format (i.e. MS Office), simultaneously collaborate on and edit various document formats, access your documents from anywhere in the word, and embed links to your docs in emails, websites, blogs, etc.  Learn more about Google Docs here.
      • Google Calendar: Create multiple calendars in order to easily share events with staff and sync to your mobile phones built-in calendar.  Learn more here.
      • Google Reader: Constantly check educational news sites and blogs for new content (updates daily).  Subscribe to websites via RSS feeds, customize to your learning needs/goals, create you own unique educational current events library, and share websites quickly with your staff. Learn more about Google Reader here.
      • Google Sites: Free and easy way to create websites.  Single click page creation, no HTML required, customize to the look and feel that suits you, many templates to get you started, upload files and attachments, embed rich content (videos, images, spreadsheets, presentations), and collaborate with others.  Learn more here.
      Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching

      • Wordle: create beautiful word clouds quickly and easily.  Use as an anticipatory set, review prior learning, or closure. Have students create a Wordle as a means of independent assessment.  Print or save to the gallery to share (if you have a Mac you can use the Grab feature in utilities to take a screen shot and save as a jpeg.  The more you type the same word the larger it will appear. Click here for a tutorial or check out these resources.
      • Voicethread: Collaborative, multimedia slideshow that holds images, documents, and videos while allowing people to navigate through slides and comment in multiple ways (text , audio, video).  Click here for a tutorial or check out these resources.
      • Wallwisher: An online message board ideal for making announcements, taking notes, and collecting ideas, responses, or feedback.  Add images, music, and or links to each virtual note.  Works like a real notice board (drag, drop, rearrange posts).  Click on the following for more information: reasons to use, tutorial, and resources.
      • Prezi: Create stunning presentations on the web and allow students to unleash their creativity.  Great way to review prior learning or use as an anticipatory set.  Principals can even create a Prezi for their faculty meetings (one of our elementary principals does this).  Check out this tutorial associated and resources.
      • Glogster: Allow students to create interactive posters easily.  Mix images, music, text, and video.  Engage students in fun and creative activities while allowing them to express their knowledge, ideas, and skills.  Check out this tutorial and associated resources.  
      • Animoto:  Automatically produces beautifully orchestrated, completely unique video pieces from photos, video clips, and music.  Educators can apply for free student accounts at Animoto for Education. Bring lessons to life!  Check out this tutorial and associated resources.
      • Skype: Add free videoconferencing with only a webcam, computer, and internet connection.  Make free Skype to Skype calls.  Bring in quest speakers, go on virtual field trips, collaborate with other schools on lessons in real time, bring in additional professional development opportunities,  and add a global context to instruction.  Chat feature allows for the sharing of links, asking questions, etc.  Check out this tutorial and associated resources.
      EdTech Tools for Administrators

      • Facebook:  Create an information hub for your building that can quickly and easily get important information in the hands of your stakeholders.  Sign up for a personal account, create a page, and add material (news, pictures, videos, events).  Use the sidebar on the left to add useful links (school website, alumni groups, athletic schedules, Twitter feed).  Check out this tutorial and the page I created for New Milford High School.
      • Social Bookmarking: Store, organize, manage, and search for your resource bookmarks online from any computer in the world.  Two common tools are Delicious and Diigo (I use Delicious).  Organize and categorize your bookmarks with tags.  Add descriptions for each resource.  Create content area and resource specific tags.  Encourage your teachers to create their own free account to organize their bookmarks.  Check out this video for more information.  My Delicious account can be found here.  
      • Dropbox: Store, sync, and share files online for free.  Create an account then download Dropbox on your computers, smartphone, and any other mobile device that you have (i.e. iPad).  Copy/paste or save any file in Dropbox.  You can even copy entire folders from your hard drive and paste them into Dropbox.  Access your files from anywhere in the world by logging into your account at  For more information see this video.
      • Evernote: Remember everything by capturing notes, ideas, and things you hear/see.  Download on your computers, smartphone, and any other mobile device that you have (i.e. iPad).  Easily and quickly sync your notes.  Use a smartphone to upload picture and audio notes.  Access your notes from anywhere in the world by logging into your account at  Organize and categorize your notes with tags.  For more information see this tutorial.
      • Twitter:  Use this microblogging resource to send out information in 140 characters or less to your stakeholders.  Tweet out links, pictures, and video.  Parents and community members can access from the web or on their mobile phones through SMS (text message).  Send emergency announcements, event reminders, special schedules, athletic scores, student achievements, and staff innovations.  View the Twitter page for New Milford High School as an example.
      • Blog:  Type of website with regular commentary, reflections, and opinions.  Can easily add text, pictures, video, and gadgets.  One of the best public relations tools available to administrators.  Interactive as readers can leave comments. Check out this video for more information about blogs.
      What did I miss?  Please leave a comment so I may improve my presentation and this post!


      1. Thanks for posting such a great administrator list of Web 2.0 apps. I agree that we administrators must lead by example in technology. Keep up the great posts!

      2. Hey Eric,

        These are great tools that you have shared and they are greatly appreciated. I am sure you have already thought about this for your presentation, but I think that one of the major shifts in my own thinking is how do these tools encourage deep learning and thinking for our students. For example, "Wordle" is a cool tool, but I am not sure how it is anything other than just that; cool. I have never looked deeply into it but I am sure there are resources on how this can be used to think critically in our classrooms. Are there resources that show how this can be used in a critical way? That is what many "non-techie" people will be sold on using this fantastic technology in the classroom. How does this improve learning and WHY should I use it in the classroom. Hope that helps in your direction of your presentation. I would love to see it in person!

      3. Thanks for sharing this wonderful resource. Appreciate the collection of best practices in one location. The journey of technology in education continues through getting technology "stuff" toward using it to create, collaborate, communicate and celebrate will continue! Well done!

      4. Some great resources on this list. Thanks for sharing.

      5. Great post! You did a great job! Actually, in education, I think the easiest and most underutilized web tool is the wiki. It can be used in so many ways and is the easiest way to publish (just ahead of Google Apps).

      6. Wow, lots of great ideas. So many things I will try to incorporate into my classroom. Here is one more. I use in my classroom and the kids love it.

        Ian Cullion, CCHBiology

      7. Great stuff. Here's an extension of these tips ... ... created after a workshop for new teachers/administrators. Feel free to pass it along.

      8. I am doing an action research study on the effects of technology integration on my students' learning. Your post has a lot of great resources that I would like to share with my students. It's fascinating how students can find technology resources that support their learning well in ways that weren't possible prior. I agree that Web 2.o appeals to our students and school communities. Here's my Middle School Literacy blog

      9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      10. Your list is great! Another one you might add...Our school (Southeast Middle in Kernersville, NC) has starting using (facebook designed for the classroom and teachers) It's a great place for students to share work, turn in assignments, learn about appropriate and quality commenting and much more.
        John Downs, Tech Facilitator

      11. Another George's comment above. I don't think the tool itself necessarily needs to encourage deep learning or thinking. I think many of these tools can aid in the process, but should not be looked to as the sole source of the deep learning or thinking. For example, Wordle got my kids last year exciting about writing because they could see a visual representation of their work. I think it made them work harder and think more deeply about what they were saying and encouraged some of the non-motivated writers to actually write something of quality for the first time. Edmodo is the same way. When students know they will have a wider audience for their projects, comments, etc it can lead to more reflective work. John Downs

      12. Hi Eric, I heard you at presentation at Sonoma County Office of Education and thought that you had described a link to an explanation of how to use each of these sights. I have looked through your links and perhaps I have missed it. A "How To" would be a terrific resource for those of us just beginning this process. Thanks!

      13. MrsGrm14 - I posted it on the Edmodo page for the group (I think), but here it is If there is anything else you need let me know.

      14. I’m really lucky and so glad that after surfing the web for a long time I have found out this information.
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